Politics

Coburn suggests putting Smithfield-China deal on ice for cooperating with Snowden

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Jeff Poor
Media Reporter

On Tuesday’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said that China should be punished for not handing over Edward Snowden, who has been accused of espionage by the U.S. government.

Coburn said that the Obama administration could block the sale of Smithfield Farms, the nation’s largest pork producer and processor, to the Chinese. However, Coburn argued that any punitive action against the Chinese should not be made public.

“It’s probably not going to be public in terms of diplomatic circles,” he said. “The next time they really need something that only we can deliver, it probably isn’t going to happen. But it’s not going to be published. We’re not going to embarrass them. The fact is, he’s out there. I don’t think he’s the issue right now. What is the issue is the lack of frank discussion on what these programs are, how they work and why they’re necessary to keep us free.”

“And, you know, I think one of your teases coming in from the statements I made — I don’t know of any federal program that gets more oversight or anything close to the oversight [that] the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] 702 and the [Patriot Act] 215 does, which is two to three times a month by the intelligence committee in the U.S. Senate,” he continued. “So, what I would like to see is the rest of the federal government programs get the same kind of oversight this did. We wouldn’t have any deficit, we would have any debt if we did that.”

Later former Democratic Pennsylvania and NBC contributor Gov. Ed Rendell offered the possibility of blocking the Smithfield deal, to which Coburn concurred.

RENDELL: I think the president should have done a better job of explaining what’s at stake here. But I also think in every field or endeavor there has to be consequences for bad behavior. The Chinese, I understand, want this Smithfield deal approved and they want it approved quickly. If I were president, I’d put that deal on ice. I’d make them come beg to us.
COBURN: I agree. I agree with that, but I wouldn’t connect them publicly like you just did. I would just say, ‘by the way, this isn’t gonna happen.’
RENDELL: I’m in broadcasting now, not in government. I can do anything I want.
COBURN: Well, supposedly in government we can, too.
RENDELL: There has to be consequences for —
COBURN: I’m sure there will be, but the question is whether you do that publicly and make it a bigger deal than what it needs to be.

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