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Durbin: 'Praise the Lord' That Mattis is 'That Close to the President'

(Photo by Eric Cortes/NurPhoto/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he sees movement in the Trump administration toward the “center stripe” on foreign policy, and “praise the Lord” that Defense Secretary James Mattis is in charge at the Pentagon.

Durbin told MSNBC that it was “absolutely essential” that Trump moved forward the expansion of NATO this week, signing off on ratification after the Senate approved Montenegro’s ascension 97-2. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) were the “no” votes.

That’s in advance of Trump’s first foreign trip to the NATO summit in May. The U.S. “will work to further strengthen our already strong relationship with Montenegro and looks forward to formally welcoming the country as the twenty-ninth member of the NATO alliance,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a Tuesday statement. Trump meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House today.

“Ukraine is the Exhibit A of why it is essential that the countries of Europe, Poland, the Baltics, and Ukraine know that the United States committed to NATO. That is the only way to stop Putin’s adventurism in this situation,” Durbin said. “…What you’re seeing is moderation of the views of Donald Trump, at least in his White House foreign policy that differs from what we heard on the campaign trail. On the campaign trail he didn’t back off an inch.”

“…What a dramatic change in such a short period of time. Think a week ago, about a week ago, here is Secretary of State Tillerson saying let the Syrian people decide if Assad has a future. Within seven days we’re attacking them.”

Durbin opined that “there is a transition taking place,” and pinpointed senior advisor Jared Kushner “as one of the elements of that transition” is “true from what I’ve heard.”

“It’s an indication they are moving toward what used to be the center stripe, mainstream on foreign policy,” he added.

On Mattis, Durbin lauded his Tuesday Pentagon press conference, adding, “Praise the Lord that that sort of person is that close to the president.”

“That’s the thing most of us fear the most. It’s 3:00 in the morning. He takes a nap between tweets. There’s a knock on the door. Five minutes to make a life or death decision. Who does he call?”

Durbin said he supported last week’s strikes on a Syrian airfield because “when it comes to crimes against humanity, that is in the national interest of the United States of America.”

“What they did was assert this president is willing to use force,” he added. “That was the statement, against a dictator using weapons that are inexcusable when it comes to conflict.”