On CNN’s At This Hour earlier today, Senator Portman discussed his support for Supreme Court nominee Judge Kavanaugh as well as the bipartisan Trade Security Act he introduced yesterday to reform the Section 232 statute and the need to resolve our trade issues with China. Portman also highlighted the importance of the Mueller investigation to get to the bottom of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections to prevent a similar result in future elections. 

Excerpts of his interview can be found below and a video of the interview can be found here.

  

PORTMAN ON SCOTUS NOMINEE BRETT KAVANUAGH:

“Relevant information is a very good thing. It's my understanding that Chairman Grassley, who is running the process here on the Judiciary Committee, has offered up more documents by far than any other Supreme Court nominee has ever had, because he did serve in the administration as associate counsel of the president. He has a long record as a judge, issuing over 200 opinions. I think anything that is relevant to his legal thinking, how he goes about looking at some of these issues, and it’s is appropriate. That will all be there.

“What Senator Schumer is saying with regard to his role as staff secretary, which is basically you are the person—the traffic cop—for all information to the president, all information out, that is literally millions of documents. It's not a substantive document from Brett Kavanaugh. It's him saying, ‘I got this from the Secretary of Interior. I will send this to you, Mr. President,’ and then take out whatever the president writes on that. A lot of this would be subject to executive privilege. I think this is a fishing expedition, and it goes too far. Yes, if it's a document that he authored or a document that he was involved with as associate counsel, certainly, or certainly as a judge, that's totally appropriate. Again, more documents are being offered than any time in history. I think there will be plenty of documents. I don't think that's the issue many Democrats have with Brett Kavanaugh. They’ve already said they’re ‘no’, Senator Schumer has already said he’s ‘no’. The issue is not the number of documents they will look at. They decided they will be against him. I think he would be a terrific justice. He’s also a good person. He is humble. He is a good listener. He is compassionate. My hope is he will have the opportunity to have his hearing soon. The American people will see that in him. Plenty of documents will be out there. We will have the opportunity to see what I think will be a nice performance by him and the opportunity for us to move together to a vote that I think will be bipartisan. I think he will be confirmed.”

PORTMAN ON FARMERS’ REACTION TO NEW TARIFFS:

“I think based on what I heard in the last several weeks—I go home every weekend and spend a lot time talking to folks who are in the agriculture sector—I think it was split. There are people who understand, as all of us do, that China is not playing by the rules, that they have cheated, they continue to cheat. We need to hold them to account. On the other hand, we need to be careful how we do it. If we're doing it in a way that invites retaliation against our farmers, and our service providers, and our workers, and manufacturing in Ohio, it does have a negative impact.”

PORTMAN ON TRADE WITH CHINA:

“My concern is we have so many balls in air right now in terms of trade. I get it on China. I agree with the president, and I commend him for going after China on their unfair trade practices. But we need to bring some of this to a close because we aren't having—it's my understanding—serious negotiations at this point. With China, for example, I don't think the Chinese government knows what our objectives are. We said two things. One, we have said we would like to increase exports in the United States to affect the trade balance. Second, we want to go after some of their structural issues that they have, for instance not allowing U.S. companies to have a majority ownership in many sectors or the way they take our intellectual property and leapfrog us on technology. I think we need to do both with China but be clear what our objectives are, what our goals are, and try to lower the temperature a little bit so we are not impacting our farmers as much. In Ohio, China is our big market for soybeans.

“Let's talk first. Let's see where we are. We are talking about going up to 25 percent from 10 percent on some of these tariffs. China is responding in kind, of course. The big issue I have focused on, frankly, is to say, ‘China is one issue. We do need to hold them to account.’ I commend the administration for doing that. We need to change the dynamic there.

PORTMAN ON SECTION 232 AND HIS BIPARTISAN TRADE SECURITY ACT:

“With regard to the rest of the world, we're doing something under Section 232, which is a national security waiver to the trade laws that I have focused on more, which is to say—our legislation yesterday we introduced tightens that up so that we're not taking on these other countries without any justification. That's a real problem. Then they do the same to us. We're doing it on steel and aluminum. They're doing it on agriculture products, on manufacturing products, on services. That begins an escalation of tariffs that could lead to a trade war without any justification. No justification on unfair trade. No rationale with regard to a domestic industry being injured under this national security waiver, you can’t just raise tariffs without a reason other than national security. I think it's being misused. Other countries are responding as you would expect in kind by raising tariffs on us. We need to get back to talking, negotiating, working out these trade agreements.

“My hope is we can do that with regard to Mexico and Canada in particular, because they are huge trading partners, our two biggest trading partners in Ohio. The 232 tariffs I talked about are causing us, in my view, to have a more difficult time, not just with the tariffs being raised on our products and our consumers being hit by higher prices, but also not being able to get to an agreement on NAFTA, to keep this North American Free Trade Agreement together. It should be updated. We need to come to a resolution on some of these issues. The uncertainty this is causing is, I think, a headwind in an economy that's otherwise very strong. I want to keep this momentum going on the economy and resolve some of the trade issues.”

PORTMAN ON MUELLER INVESTIGATION: 

“I do think we ought to let the Mueller investigation go forward and let the facts go where they might. Follow the facts. I also think that the Mueller investigation ought to wrap up. I think it has been a long time. I think the American people deserve to know what the Russians did in our election in 2016 and that will inform us for 2018, one reason I hoped this could be wrapped up by now. We have to remember, that's really what this investigation is about. It's about the Russians, their meddling and why they did it, how they did it and how to avoid it from happening in the future.” 

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