SALT LAKE CITY — Withdrawing from a Cold War-era arms treaty with Russia was the right decision for the United States, U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.
The U.S. formally withdrew Friday from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces agreement, which restricted missile launches from both countries.
"I don't consider us pulling out of the INF treaty. I consider Russia never abiding by it," McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters. "America is becoming less safe. The world is becoming less safe."
"It's not just America saying this, the NATO countries as well, so it is the right decision," he said.
McCarthy was in Salt Lake City on Friday to speak at Rep. Chris Stewart's annual security summit.
Sue Gordon, the nation's No. 2 intelligence official, also spoke at the meeting. Gordon could rise to acting director of national intelligence now that President Donald Trump has withdrawn the nomination of Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, to replace Dan Coats, who will step down from the post Aug. 15.
The White House, however, is planning to block Gordon from the position, The New York Times reported Friday. Gordon briefly mentioned Trump as a "really great motivator of change in intelligence" during her prepared remarks.
"This is a man who wants to do. He wants to take action. He also thinks about the world economically, rather than just political militarily," said Gordon, principal deputy director of national intelligence.
Gordon did not participate in the press conference afterward, though Stewart's office had her scheduled to do so.
In Washington, Trump told reporters that he likes Gordon "very much" and "certainly she will be considered for the acting (director), and that could happen."
At the security summit, Russia's weapons development and China's economic reach were among the topics of discussion.
Stewart, R-Utah, agreed with McCarthy that Russia is responsible for the demise of the INF treaty.
"There’s not a person who works in national security in the world who doesn’t recognize that Russia’s been violating that treaty for years, and they truly did withdraw from that by their actions," Stewart said.
McCarthy said the Trump administration's new tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese goods are part of the negotiations for a fair trade agreement.
"I’ve watched China negotiate with us and then back pedal in what they’ve said," McCarthy said, adding that China has not ended fentanyl coming into the U.S. or bought more American agricultural products as promised.
"What the president is doing, I think, unites Republicans and Democrats to try get a level playing field," he said.
Stewart said there has been a "sea change" among American companies who saw tariffs as hurting their business but now say they're willing to pay the price for a good agreement.
"I think it's been a really good thing for those negotiations," he said.
In his speech, McCarthy said he has "problems" with certain companies that aren't willing to work with the U.S. military but will work with China when it comes to technology, adding "that is the future war of how we fight."
Google, he said, sees itself not as an American company but as a world company and works with China on Dragonfly, an internet search engine prototype the company designed to be compatible with China's state censorship rules.
"Is the market more important than freedom?" McCarthy said. "That's the question that we'll have and have to raise."
Gordon noted that China is America's greatest data-gathering competitor, primarily targeting intellectual property to advance its own capabilities. Russia, she said, used data to influence how Americans think about themselves.
She called Russian interference in the 2016 elections a "cyber 9/11."
"I can’t think of anything worse than making us not believe in ourselves," Gordon said.