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Cotton heads to a Intelligence Committee meeting. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Sen. Tom Cotton praised President Trump's approach to Iran but differed with the president on North Korea and the standoff with China over telecom giant Huawei in an hour-long conversation with former acting CIA Director Michael Morell at the Atlantic Council's annual forum on Friday.

Why it matters: The hawkish Army veteran has President Trump's ear, and may well end up in his administration.

  • On Saudi Arabia: Cotton says the kingdom's current turmoil results from "political instability in the Saudi model, insecurity because of Iran... as well as economic" pressures in the global oil market. He said the U.S.-Saudi relationship is "critical," and we shouldn't "sunder" it over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
  • On North Korea: Cotton wants to see tighter enforcement of sanctions, disagrees with Trump's decision to cancel U.S.-South Korea military exercises, and says he "wouldn't let this drag on forever." In the meantime, he says, the U.S. should improve its defenses against North Korea missiles.
  • On China: Cotton says China is a "unique adversary in the world" and is seeking to displace the U.S. in the long-term, but can't match Washington's network of alliances. He says Beijing's approach to its neighbors can boil down to "we're big, you're small."
  • On Russia: Cotton says "Vladimir Putin doesn't think Russia lost the Cold War, they were just behind at half-time and catching up now." He says the U.S. needs to approach Putin "without making out that he's 10 feet tall, and recognizing they're a declining power."

On Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, held in Canada on charges related to U.S. sanctions, Cotton said: "I want to see her extradited, I want to see her face the full force of U.S. law." He said letting trade influence things (as Trump suggested) would send the "wrong signal" to China and U.S. allies.

One surprising thing: Asked whom he admires most in the history of U.S. foreign policy, Cotton chose John Quincy Adams, for shaping the Monroe Doctrine.

Go deeper

Progressives pressure Schumer to end filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

A progressive coalition is pressuring Chuck Schumer on his home turf by running a digital billboard in Times Square urging the new majority leader to end the Senate filibuster.

Why it matters: Schumer is up for re-election in 2o22 and could face a challenger, and he's also spearheading his party's broader effort to hold onto its narrow congressional majorities.

4 hours ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.