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Trump and Kim Jong Un go face to face. TRANSCRIPT: 06/11/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Trump and Kim Jong Un go face to face. TRANSCRIPT: 06/11/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: June 11, 2018

KATY TUR, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I wonder what sort of person is the kind of person that rips up paper after a meeting. Who? I don`t know.

That`s all for tonight. Chuck will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Ari, are you that kind of person to rips up paper at the end of the -- every meeting?

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Not every meeting, but you know, in the legal profession, there are lawful ways to use a shredder into eliminate records.

TUR: Which are?

MELBER: As long as you haven`t been issued any kind of document request -- we are on TV, so when you do that, it`s on air. We are just delivering coffee for the show.

Literally it`s happening. If you don`t have a document retention request or a subpoena, you can eliminate documents, so people do that.

TUR: Ari, be nice to your colleagues.

MELBER: It`s just information.

Katy, before I let you go, you have studied Donald Trump for a longtime. So, other than the awkward banter, which we sometimes do, a serious question based on this person that you were watching from the very launch, the very start of his campaign. What do you think he will be like tonight? Is this a night where he might quote "rise to the occasion?"

TUR: I think in every time we thought he would rise to any occasion, we have been disappointed. So I would say that. Just past is precedent. And then secondly, I`m not sure what it is going to be like in the room. I wonder if the President is going to come in armed with enough information that will stop him from making from inadvertent concessions to Kim Jong-un. I know the meeting has shortened to 45 minutes, a lot of North Korea experts see that as a good thing, not that much time alone with Kim Jong- un, but I am positive about one thing. He will come out in front of the cameras say it was a very great meeting. They had a very great chemistry. Many wonderful things are going to happen. We will see. We will see.

MELBER: Katy Tur who knows of what she speaks. And I should mention, one of our experts is nodding their head. I`ll explain I think more why, agreeing with your analysis.

Thank you, Katy.

TUR: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: As for our show tonight, it does begin, as mentioned, with this special coverage of the high-stakes precedence that Donald Trump is about to break tonight. Will it be a breakthrough or risky disappointment?

We are three hours away from Donald Trump sitting down with Kim Jong-un. This is the first in-person meeting ever between American president and a North Korean leader. The stakes involved North Korea`s nuclear ambitions as well as negotiations with this notoriously mercurial leader.

And after all the bluster and the tweets, we can tell you this. Tonight is the time when these two men have to stop talking trash at a distance and have to start getting real. And because this is a special episode of THE BEAT, as I mentioned, tonight I will be joined for the entire hour by one of the most seasoned experts on this kind of diplomacy, Ambassador Chris Hill. It`s our honor to have him. He is also one of the few Americans to go inside North Korea while representing the U.S. government. He knows the players and he know how difficult this task is for Donald Trump tonight.

Now here is what is coming. We can tell around 9:00 p.m., there`s this one-on-one meeting with Trump and Kim Jong-un. Now we are told they will be completely alone. Katy was just referring to that. No other diplomats, no other aides, just government translators for them to communicate one on one.

Now the White House says talks with the North Koreans are moving more quickly than expected. Now Trump is leaving Singapore just 11 hours after the meeting begins. But he is saying he won`t need much time at all.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How long will it take to figure out whether or not they are serious? I said maybe in the first minute. Just my touch, my feel. That`s what I do.


MELBER: But while Trump is tweeting about excitement in the air, Kim Jong- un is taking selfies around the city. And we have to tell you this, because it`s part of the news, Dennis Rodman, an acquaintance of, yes, both Trump and Kim Jong-un, causing a stir with his own arrival in Singapore. The Trump administration insist though put aside all of this energy, all of this excitement. The Trump folks tell us tonight there are clear goals for the summit.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The ultimate objective we seek from diplomacy with North Korea has not changed. The complete and verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept.


MELBER: As mentioned, I begin with Chris Hill, who served as U.S. ambassador in South Korea, and the chief U.S. negotiator on the North Korean nuclear issue under George W. Bush. Rick Stengel, former undersecretary of state in the Obama administration and Michael McFaul, many of our guests know as a former U.S. ambassador to Russia and special assistant to President Obama.

Three serious diplomats in a time when, Chris, some tell us that this is a less than serious approach to diplomacy. Let`s start, though, not in the Trump box, but with wider context. How should a meetings like tonight work? And what are the best odds for success?

AMB. CHRIS HILL, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: First of all, I think it`s an encouraging sign that they have shortened the meeting, I would have shortened it to 0.125 of a second, and then had turned it over to experts. But the fact that it is down to 45 minutes suggest that this is indeed going to be the beginning of a process.

So I doubt we are going to see a commitment from North Korea tonight to deliver all their nuclear weapons tomorrow. But I think we will have a commitment to discuss it and a preparedness to have a process going forward.

Now, of course, the problem is the President has made very clearly he doesn`t processes. HE doesn`t like, you know, long-term negotiations. But I think he will take rather that a complete fiasco which is what could have happen if he kind of kept the bar that high with the notions that we are going to solve all this.

You know, North Korea, they have been at this for some 50 years. This nuclear weapons didn`t start getting produced when they had their feelings hurt by Donald Trump or George W. Bush. They have been add it for 50 years. There are a lot of people whose jobs and watch depend on it. And even dictatorships have politics. So even if Kim Jong-un wants to get rid of them today, he is not going to be able to do that for a variety of obvious reasons.

MELBER: When you say even dictatorships have politics, you mean that even though he has complete control or it would appear on the outside in that country, he still has to think about the optics who are his own people who are subjects?

HILL: You bet. I mean, they have been talking about nuclear weapons. They celebrate this. They put it in their constitution. They parade these things around. Every may day is a big deal. And then suddenly he is going to say, well, we are going to get rid of them. And then we are hoping that someday, Pyongyang is going to look like Singapore. Frankly, I think maybe one of the things he learned last night walking around Singapore is that it is not going to happen overnight, either.

MELBER: Rick, you hear this. I want to play some of Donald Trump, because there is such a tendency to jump on everything he does as stupid, because so much what he does looks stupid. But that doesn`t mean it always is stupid. And so, take a listen to Donald Trump sounding a bit like your old on boss, believe it or not, at least in this one sentence, because Barack Obama talked a lot about the virtues of having dialogues even with terrible foreign leaders. Take a listen.


TRUMP: The minimum would be relationship. You would start at least a dialogue. At a minimum I do believe at least we will have met each other, we will have seen each other. Hopefully we will have liked each other and we will start that process.


MELBER: A dialogue.

RICK STENGEL, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY STATE FOR PUBLIC POLICY: I think it`s fair. I mean, Winston Churchill famously said, I think you need an English accent to say this, jaw jaw is always better than war war. It`s always better to talk than to have conflict. And I think the way it has been set up, and Chris mentioned this, it`s the beginning of something. It is not the end of something. It is a 45-minute meeting with translators on both sides. So it is 22 1/2 minutes long.

Trump has already prepared his remarks when he comes out. He is going to label it a success. And by the way, it`s a gigantic success for Kim Jong- un. This is whole meeting has transformed him from the despotic leader of an authoritarian concentration camp state to a global statesman, all because Donald Trump said yes without any preconditions.

MELBER: Right. And that goes, Ambassador McFaul, to something that a lot of folks are debating around the country tonight, which is hey, is this more dialogue? What`s wrong with that? Why can`t this President, who maybe unusual, but why can`t he go out and have his unusual style of diplomacy and talk to people versus whether that itself, diplomatic terms, is giving something up for effectively nothing.

AMB, MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, without question, the fact of the meeting is a giant victory for the North Koreans and giant gift from our side. There is no question about that.

The question moving forward is does this gift lead to tangible payoffs for American national security interest and out allies in the future? And that`s what we don`t know. I agree with what the other two guests have said that we want to process, but we want a process that leads to an outcome that makes us better off than where we are at today. And the Trump administration has said it should be denuclearization. I agree with that. And so, what I hope is that this gift to Kim Jong-un leads to a process that leads to something that`s good for the American people and our allies.

MELBER: So take a listen to Pompeo who would be more of the sort of the policy check on this because he is also talking about the need to verify.


POMPEO: The United States has been fooled before. There is no doubt about it. Many Presidents previously have signed off on pieces of paper only to find that the North Koreans either didn`t promise what we thought they had or actually reneged on their promises.

We are get to ensure we setup a system sufficiently robust that we are able to verify these outcomes. That`s what`s been missed before.


MELBER: He was talking about verification system. But do they also need a system where someone, Pompeo or chief of staff or someone, can walk into Trump`s office and say, as you want to say to Presidents sometimes, this might create bad headlines. This might hurt your ego, but we need to walk away from something, because it`s the right thing for the country?

MCFAUL: That`s to me?

MELBER: That`s to you.

MCFAUL: Yes, of course, absolutely. You have to do that in all negotiations. President Obama had to do that in his negotiations with President Medvedev over the new start treaty. Went at the very late hour they wanted to inserts some constraints on missile defense. And he had to say no and we had to postpone the negotiations. And I suspect that will happen multiple times in this negotiation. Because this is the hardest negotiation over nuclear weapons that one could ask to try to do. I think it will last years, if not longer, therefore, you have to be able to do that.

MELBER: I want you all to stay with me and also add in to our conversation another expert. Patricia Kim, is a fellow at the council of foreign relations who specializes in these Asian security.

If you have been listening to this conversation and you look at this again, with or apart from the fact that Donald Trump is President, what is the best outcome tonight?

PARTICIA KIM, FELLOW AT THE COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I think the best outcome is if we can get North Korea to commit to language to give up its nuclear weapons. So far Kim Jong-un has only committed to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, which is, you know, a different from dismantling his own weapons.

So I think the best-case outcome from this scenario from the summit is if President Trump can get Kim Jong-un to commit to give up his own nuclear weapons program, commit to a specific timeline and agree to allowing inspectors to engage an intrusive inspection to make sure that they are actually following through on their commitment.

MELBER: The President also took some media bait, if you want to call it that, on a recent query. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you would invite him to the White House or to the United States, would it be here at the White House or Mar-a-Lago?

TRUMP: Maybe we will start with the White House. What do you think?


MELBER: Would Kim Jong-un be psyched if this led to a White House visit?

KIM: Absolutely. I think Kim Jong-un`s desire is to have legitimacy in the eyes of the world. He wants to ensure that he is in power for many decades to come and securing a visit to the United States would absolutely be a step in securing this legitimacy that he crave.

MELBER: And Rick, let me read a little bit from the "New York Times" which talks about ending North Korea`s nuclear program is the most challenging case of nuclear disbarment in history. And the reasons they give is that there is already 141 sites that are devoted to some type of what they call WMD style material, 20 to 60 nuclear weapons, potentially. Of course, this is all you know, guesstimation (ph), we should mention. And there is also it`s unclear if mountain tunnels that hide some plants and mobile missiles. As a non-nuclear expert, it sounds scary and hard to me, but what do you make of it?

STENGEL: Well, so if you look at the Iran deal that we made, it had the most complex international inspections possible. Iran is like downtown Manhattan compared to North Korea. That is -- it is a Hermit kingdom. It is protected. Nobody even knows what they have and where they have it.

But I would have one note of caution. I mean, this idea of complete denuclearization. Remember, the nuclear weapons that Chris said that they have been developing for 50 years, that made Kim Jong-un the hit boy. That got him Singapore. That may get him to the White House.

He is not going to relinquish it so easily or he will kick the nuclear can down the road as slowly as possible.

MELBER: Right.

Rick Stengel, I want to thank you for being here.

Patricia Kim, thank you for joining us on this special night.

The ambassador stay. We have more to get to.

Trump aides have a now profound description of their foreign policy doctrine. We will get in to that. Also, what are the lessons learned here for China and Russia? We are going to see how some oppressive other authoritarians are looking at this kind of negotiation and why Trump will not, I repeat not, even raise the issue of North Korea`s abysmal human rights issue record (INAUDIBLE). A man who seen international USA is here (ph).

I`m Ari Melber. You are watching a special edition of THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and this quote mad man theory of diplomacy, which has people asking who is playing who? Last year, this was how Donald Trump talked about him.


TRUMP: Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. They will be met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen.

Look, it was very, very nasty. You know, with little rock man and with the buttons. And you know, my button is bigger --

Little rock man, he is a sick puppy.


MELBER: Little rocket man, sick puppy, now Trump calls him honorable. But who exactly is Kim Jong-un. Well, he went to an elite Swiss boarding school under an assumed name. Teachers and classmates described with destructive and sometimes even violent child who did not do well in school. One source told "Axios" he was gluttonous, prone to fits of anger and swaging around his classmates who demanded slavish loyalty from other children in his wake.

NBC News foreign correspondent Kier Simmons travelled to Switzerland where he spoke with the distant relative as well as a de factor describes a man obsessed with getting absolute obedience.


KIER SIMMONS, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: His father was the one who influenced him the most, he says. He saw absolute obedience, kneeling in front of his father. Now Kim Jong-un is forcing all the officials to do exactly the same.


MELBER: Now a teacher from that school who says Kim was his student also relays that he was a typical teenage boy obsessed with basketball.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He always looked like a pro, in his NBA clothes, also the Nikes, the good ones with the Airmax. That was the times of Shaq O`Neal and Michael Jordan. What I said to him was that, hey, you look already like a pro. But there is still a way to do to play like a pro. For me, I wasn`t teasing the leader OF North Korea. I was teasing un-Pak (ph).


MELBER: I`m joined by Keir Simmons who has been doing this reporting as well as the "Washington Post" Jonathan Capehart, and as promised back with me for insight, Ambassador Chris Hill.

Keir, what can you tell us about the new reporting.

SIMMONS: Well, I think strategically, Ari, what Kim Jong-un wants is pretty straightforward. He wants to stay in power, keep his nukes and boost his economy. In terms of his personality, though, it gets very interesting. When you ask the question, who is he and look at his background. In fact that "Axios" report completely contradicts what we were told by this teacher in Switzerland who believes that he taught him for a year, and describes a young man who loved music, who we mentioned likes basketball, who had a sense of humor, liked to joke around, and was not as we have seen this in his pictures surrounded by bodyguards the way, you know, now the leader of North Korea is, but simply a simple schoolboy. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never saw a bodyguard, something like this. They came to school by foot. Really he was a boy, a teenager from next door. Never saw something special -- recognized something special.

SIMMONS: He would walk to school every day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He doesn`t came by rockets or something like this. No, like any other --.


SIMMONS: Some of the interesting points from this, I guess, Ari, are that, you know, how much of a pull is there for Kim Jong-un towards the west, given that he was educated for such a time in the west. He used that false name, if you like -- we believe. And that raises the question, this is somebody who has kind of been pretending, been lying in a certain sense, since he was a teen, so he is really schooled in being ability to act. And that`s something that President Trump would need to consider.

And I guess one other point, Ari. And that is this, that when experts talk about knowing who Kim Jong-un is, in fact, I think western intelligence has been pretty unclear about he is. And in fact that teacher that we spoke to said that he doesn`t think he is ever been approached by any member of western intelligence to ask him about the kind of boy that he taught. So we don`t know who Kim Jong-un is. That is the fundamental question. And that is the unknown that President Trump is walking into.

MELBER: Ambassador from a diplomatic perspective, what does the U.S. know about him and his knowledge of the world? How is that affect how you approach him?

HILL: I think it`s always very different to really determine what he is like when so few people have actually met him. So, you know, our various agencies in Washington will put together a lot of essentially, you know, sets of biographical information. And then when you are trying to look through this and get ready for a meeting, you kind of look at it, then you have the meeting and then you sort of wonder, wait a minute, is this the same guy they are describing?

So I can understand to some extent President Trump`s view look, let me size him up myself. That however, doesn`t mean you shouldn`t read the stuff because there are nuggets there. And they can help inform on the question of what is -- how is he going to be behave in a meeting.

MELBER: Yes. And Jonathan, I mean, again, as we assess the President`s side of this, their argument is that he has landed where he wants to. So if it looked sort of sloppy or a contradictory, and we showed the back and forth language, he is now getting what he wants tonight.


MELBER: Yes, they say.

CAPEHART: Right, they say. But also getting what he wants is Kim Jong-un, the dictator of North Korea. He has gotten something that his father and grandfather never got. And that is a meeting with the president of the United States. He will be meeting face-to-face with American president. He will be on the world stage, seen as an equal, on fur with the president of the United States. That`s why I have been saying and tweeting for the last two days that Kim Jong-un has already won. And so, you know, I hope I heard other people saying earlier on the show that this could very well might be the beginning of a process. But it is the beginning of a process that the North Koreans are already starting at an advantage.

And you know, President Trump said, just before the meeting the G7 in Canada, that he will know within the first minute whether he can strike a deal with Kim Jong-un. And I wonder if he fully appreciates that the person Keir Simmons, his package on Kim Jong-un as a young kid going to school in Switzerland whether President Trump realizes that that young kid was born and raised to become the leader of a dictatorship, that this is -- he has learned at the feet of his father and his grandfather about what it means to safeguard the regime right up into having a nuclear arsenal that`s led to a meeting with the President of the United States. I hope the President fully appreciates this in this meeting with Kim Jong-un.

MELBER: Well, I guess that raises the question for Ambassador Hill. Are these things usually resolved, this nuclear disbarment negotiations in the first minute?

HILL: They are not going to be resolved in the first minute.

MELBER: That`s not generally the case?

MELBER: No, that`s not generally the case.

MELBER: We are all learning as we go?

HILL: You bet we are. But I must say with respect to the North Koreans, you will have to listen to a few history lessons, then you will have to listen to a few lessons on why they have the nuclear weapons, which usually have to do with our defensive forces in South Korea. And then at a certain point you have to turn the table and look, Mr. Kim, I have to make very clear. Our forces train with South Korea to protect South Korea. The only regret we have about our forces is we didn`t have enough of them in the spring of 1950, when you invaded in June of 1950.

So you have to kind of push back. And by the way, it would be helpful to know a little history, so I hope our President has kind of studied up on that. And then you say look, this is what we need out of this. We need a commitment from you, a commitment to move away and to get rid of these weapons. Because we have a lot of options for dealing with weapons, but we don`t have the option to walk away from this problem. This is a big problem for us. So let`s see what we can do. Something on that sort of line.

MELBER: Right. On that level of context.

Ambassador Hill, thank you. Stay with me.

Jonathan Capehart and Keir Simmons, thank you for joining us and sharing some of your reporting.

Now up ahead on THE BEAT, Vladimir Putin says he is also ready to talk with Trump. The impact of all this tying together with Russia.

And this was interesting, a senior Trump officials says there is a Trump doctrine. I`m going to read to you those words when we are back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: The other top story tonight, the gut instincts driving Donald Trump`s approach according to his owned aides and what it means for America`s foreign policy.

Now this is interesting. Today, a senior White House official telling the foreign policy writer, Jeffrey Goldberg at "the Atlantic," the Trump doctrine is we are America, B. That`s the doctrine. Now this sound ridiculous, it also may be revealing and helping to display a kind of defiant outburst that Donald Trump just had in Canada, calling their prime minister weak and dishonest, as well as the approach that Trump is taking at times to North Korea, which has been all about attitude.


TRUMP: I think I`m very well prepared. I don`t think I have to prepare very much. It is about the attitude. It`s about -- willingness to get things down.

How long will it take to figure it out whether or not they are serious? As I said, maybe in the first minute. You know when they say that you know, if you are going to like somebody in the first five seconds? Did you hear that one? Well, I think that very quickly I will know whether or not something good is going to happen.


MELBER: I`m joined now by a man who spent time in North Korea, Max Baucus, a former U.S. ambassador to China under President Obama as well as former senator. And back with me for the hour as promised, our expert, Ambassador Chris Hill.

Ambassador Baucus, thank you for being here. Is this real? Does that sound to you like something that any White House adviser would say? And do you think there is substantive content to that description of a Trump doctrine?

AMB. MAX BAUCUS, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: Well, this may be a bit flip. I think the Trump doctrine is Trump ego, frankly. It is too much Donald Trump, one man show. He doesn`t listen to his advisers very much. He doesn`t consult with other countries. It`s America first, which is becoming America alone. And if that`s the Trump doctrine, the United States is in real trouble.

We have to work with other countries. Diplomacy is extremely difficult. It is not optical (ph). And frankly, I`m quite concerned that going into this summit, Kim has achieved two big victories. He has nuclearized the peninsula and has this meeting. Trump goes into this meeting with nothing. And after that I think we are weakened now. Sanctions are going to be harder to maintain because Trump is meeting with the Kim Jong-un.

MELBER: Right, you`re making a point that we`ve heard from other experts across the spectrum which is that the meeting itself is supposed to be a reward that`s why other U.S. presidents have not given it up for as you put it relatively nothing. I want to also ask about expertise because while aides are putting out these bellicose statements, there is a question about how ready this administration is to do the work of non-proliferation if they get that far. New York Times reporting Trump is the first president since 1941 not to name a science advisor, people who participated in past nuclear negotiations say the absence that high-level expertise could put him at a disadvantage. Your view, sir?

BAUCUS: Well, frankly it`s a deeper question you know, having served in China, I could tell you that the Chinese are beginning to think that the decline of America is proceeding more quickly than they anticipated. And I think part of that is being how they view Donald Trump with this organization, how he`s conducted himself. The G7 is just example. He`s just a person who lies, he contradicts himself and the -- and the Chinese just see this disorganization, this dysfunctional government and I think that`s a real problem. I don`t know that Trump is going to get much out of Singapore. It could be nice sounding photo-op my statement, and then we`ll see. And all this comes down to trust, it comes down to verification. I don`t know that Kim is going to trust Trump because Trump changed his mind all the time. We can`t trust Kim because he backs out at least, North Korea has. It`s going to be very, very hard to maintain the kind of trust that`s necessary in order to get a substantive, solid agreement, details that make sense unless there`s transparency and total verification.

MELBER: And so, is that it? I mean this question to both of you, Ambassador Baucus first though, what does that success look like? What does that verification look like?

BAUCUS: It`s going to have to be inspectors in North Korea whether it`s the International Energy Atomic Energy Commission, it`s American inspectors, Chinese inspectors, it`s going to have the inspectors. People who`d have to on-site -- be on site in North Korea to see what`s actually going on.

HILL: Absolutely. The deal that we had during the George W. Bush Administration involved inspectors and going to unknown sites. And the North Koreans said, fine you can see the sites you already know about, the ones we`ve declared but no unknown sites and that`s what we had to pull the plug. But I do want to make a point. Inspection is not a hundred percent gain. So the idea that you are going to have 1000 percent metaphysical certainty about your inspection, you`re not. What you`re going to have is enough to be sure you know whether the other side is cheating. And so it would be very interesting that the National Security Advisor John Bolton has these kind of maximalist ideas and how that`s going to work with Trump who I don`t think has maximalist ideas like this.

MELBER: When you look at the past attempts and when we were in commercial break, you were referencing Mr. Pompeo`s discussion or gloss on those -- on those past attempts. So I want to put up on the screen, with Clinton there was this agreed fame framework, an attempt to halt nuclear activity for oil and electricity, the Bush 43 had these multilateral talks, Obama something called the leap day deal halt nuclear activity for food aid but basically failed and that`s why we`re here. That`s why we`re still going for it. What is your view of what that record says and does that record in some way imply that to put the meeting aside, that Donald Trump is not aberrant or out of the ordinary and being a U.S. President trying to get something going on out of -- out of Korea?

HILL: Look, I don`t think it`s a bad thing that he`s trying to get something or not. But for example the leap day deal, the idea that they would get inspectors back in there in return for food aid, we didn`t even give North Korea a peanut butter sandwich before they broke the deal. So we weren`t fooled. We held back on what we had to give them. So it was unfortunate it didn`t go forward but we were not fooled by. We didn`t give them anything. And same frankly for the deal we did during the -- during President Bush`s time. We gave them increments of fuel oil, they gave us increments of denuclearization. When they stopped giving us those, we stop giving them fuel. So we`ve never got ahead of the process where we were caught having given them a lot of stuff and not gotten stuff in return. Yes. Well, Chris, stay with me. Ambassador Baucus, thanks for your expertise tonight. Still ahead, there is something that Donald Trump apparently won`t bring up and it`s very important, North Korea`s human rights atrocities. I have the former head of the Amnesty International USA as part of our special coverage and what the Kremlin is thinking as Trump tosses allies aside and pushes forward with this meeting.


MELBER: The White House has set a time that effectively everything`s on the table at tonight`s meeting. But today we`re learning there is one thing that aides say won`t be on the table, it`s North Korea`s long record of human rights atrocities. Two Trump administration officials tell NBC News the U.S. has decided not to bring those issues up to keep the focus on the nuclear negotiations. Amnesty International has reported North Korea keeps over 100,000 people in what amount to political prisoner camps and subjects some to forced labor, to starvation and to torture. Last year, it was Trump himself talking about North Korea`s atrocities against its citizens.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They live in the capital city. Those who score the lowest starve. All responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea.


MELBER: That was a discussion of isolation. Of course the summit tonight as many have pointed out is the opposite of isolation for Kim Jong-un. North Korea`s leader, they`re snapping selfies today projecting that image to the rest of the world. I`m joined now by Suzanne Nossel. She`s the former Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, now CEO of PEN America, Ambassadors Michael McFaul and Chris Hill are back with me. Suzanne, what do people know -- need to know about how North Korea treats its citizens and do you think it should be relevant to these negotiations?

SUZANNE NOSSEL, CEO, PEN AMERICA: Yes. this is one of the most -- probably maybe the worst and most repressive regime in the world in terms of brutality toward political prisoners, total restrictiveness of freedom of expression. It is an ultimate police state. You know, every kind of human rights violation happens. Extermination of individuals, disappearance of individuals, summary executions, torture, you know, discrimination against religious minorities, against women, against the disabled, so you know you name it in terms of human rights abuses and the North Korean regime is doing it. So I think it always has to be part of the discussion. I think President Trump absolutely must raise it. It`s crucial that he -- it be known to Kim Jong-un that this remains a U.S. priority. You know, I also think it`s legitimate. This is discussion about their nuclear program. You know, there`s some hope of making progress on that issue and it`s fair to make that the centerpiece of the discussion but human rights needs to be part of it. it`s also crucial he doesn`t come out of this you know, with a big smile on his face and an embrace of Kim Jong-un you know, as if this horrific record can be just put aside.

MELBER: So you`re saying that it`s understandable that it`s going to be a background or smaller issue but you don`t think it should be zero. And you`re concerned that Donald Trump wanting to celebrate some part of this that reflects on him effectively acts to kind of launder one of the worst human rights records in the world.

NOSSEL: Yes, that`s a concern. You know, he`s so kind of spontaneous, impromptu, and if he feels like he has a political win, a diplomatic win, you know, I could imagine he`s putting his arm around embracing Kim Jong-un with all kinds of compliments. I think that`s a horrible risk here that he sort of whitewash in any way this atrocious record which he himself has spoken out about.

MELBER: And Ambassador, as you well know, this administration and others have also made a direct link policy-wise between these kind of abuses and the way that North Korea operates as a potential threat to the world. I`m reading here from an October statement from the Trump Department of State. Human rights abuses by this regime remain among the worst in the world. Many of the country`s human rights abuses "underwrite the regime`s weapons program."

HILL: Well, I think this is true. And what of course they`re referring to is the fact that there are these North Korean workers around the world who are essentially on slave wages and the money goes to -- back to the government. When we were negotiating with the North Koreans, one of the issues, of course, was in the context of denuclearization, we`re prepared to recognize them, establish diplomatic relations. And what I told them was in that context that is establishing diplomatic relations we would have a tract devoted to the human rights question and devoted really to our efforts to try to get some improvement, move them in the right direction as part of the process of establishing diplomatic relations. That -- of course none of that happen because they didn`t get to the first base which was denuclearization.

MELBER: Right. And none of that happened and then to push back a little bit on the broader consensus, Ambassador McFaul, and both of you as ambassadors who served under previous administrations is that the general wrap has been that real politics almost always comes first. There`s an NBC write-up, feel free to disagree with it of course, but it says, Ambassador, Trump is following decades of U.S. policy which is prioritized addressing North Korea`s nuclear threat over holding the regime accountable for the "murder, torture, rape and starvation is perpetuated against its own citizens. I guess the question is can we sit here with a straight face and say that this is any different than the way other State Departments in both parties have approached at least phase one of these kinds of negotiations?

MCFAUL: Well I`d say two things. First, there`s a lot of hypocrisy for the Trump Administration to tear up the Iran deal when they said exactly this, that it didn`t deal with all these other issues. The Obama administration said we dealt in the Iran Nuclear Deal with Iran nuclear weapons and they tore it up because they didn`t deal with all this other stuff. But secondly, it`s not true that all administration`s behave the same way. In fact, Ronald Reagan, when he was negotiating with the Soviets, he brought up human rights. He brought up human rights even at (INAUDIBLE) when talking about nuclear weapons with Gorbachev and even before Gorbachev. One important thing that the Reagan administration did which I think was successful is they didn`t link progress on arms control to progress on human rights but they reserve the right. My colleague here Secretary of State George Shultz talks about it all the time to be able to talk about the full range of issues that are in the bilateral relationship. So I think there`s a way to talk about it without letting it get in the way of what is the highest priority and that`s to get rid of nuclear weapons.

MELBER: Ambassador McFaul, thank you very much. Suzanne Nossel who has a lot of experience on this, I appreciate you being here, and Chris Hill as part of our special coverage. Up ahead, there is the Putin factor why he says he`s rooting for the summit tonight. What he stands to gain and Trump`s fight with our allies. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is my guest next.


MELBER: Vladimir Putin is not in Singapore tonight but much talk about what he`s up to because he says Russia wants to make sure the summit is success trying to contribute to the success of the meeting in every possible way. Russia`s Foreign Minister inviting Kim Jong-un to visit passing on Putin`s wishes in May. And now, well, he`s welcoming his own potential Trump summit as soon as the American side is ready. The U.S. Ambassador to Russia has been working for months to arrange a face-to-face meeting. Trump attacking America`s key allies this weekend slamming the Canadian Prime Minister is dishonest and weak. His former policy advisor calling Trump in return apathetic little manchild. German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling Trump`s G7 message both sobering and depressing and despite beefing with our allies, Trump was apparently missing Putin, wanting Russia back in the G8. This is one leader Trump has refused to criticize.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This used to be the G8 not the G7 then something happened a while ago where the Russia is no longer in. I think it would be an asset to have Russia back.

I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory.

I respect Putin. He`s a strong leader I can tell you that.

Putin says very nice things about me. I think that`s very nice.


MELBER: And I`m joined by Democratic Senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Thanks for being here on a very big night. Your view of how Russia figures into all this?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, if you`re looking at Europe from Vladimir Putin`s perspective, probably your top strategic goal in the region is to disrupt, degrade, and confound the Atlantic alliance that has brought so much success and liberty to Europe and to the United States. And nobody has done more to disrupt, degrade, and confound the Atlantic Alliance than a President Trump. So in that sense, he appears to be following the Putin playbook quite closely.

MELBER: What do you make of the geostrategic argument by Trump allies that if there is some sort of breakthrough here for the U.S. and it is provable, it is verifiable that some kind of positive relationship with Russia could help secure it, that Putin is holding himself out as somehow a supportive player.

WHITEHOUSE: Well, if something can come out of the North Korea negotiations which is what I assume your question was about, you know, that`s a good thing. Given the short amount of time that Kim Jong-un and President Trump are going to spend together, given the lowering of expectations by the President going in, given Kim Jong-un`s nature and North Korea`s situation, I think the likelihood that anything big emerges from this is fairly small. I also think that we need to make absolutely sure that we`re not only targeting North Korea`s nuclear program but its chemical and biological weapons programs and it would -- it`s going to be interesting to see whether Trump is more satisfied with a deal with North Korea that is weaker than the Iran deal -- than he has been with the Iran deal itself. But I think there is a prospect for Russia to play a helpful role in trying to a cabin North Korea`s nuclear chemical and biological weapon aspirations and I hope that works.

MELBER: Right, and as you say a lot of the same things that this administration instead of wrong or at least problematic about the Iran deal would logically appear to apply here as well. Of course, this is --

WHITEHOUSE: It remains to be seen on actually what they agree to but again, given the short timing and the low expectations the Trump has set, there`s not a signal that there`s going to be something great that comes out of this.

MELBER: And while we`re talking about foreign policy, some other news here on sanctioning Russia, the U.S. Treasury here imposing sanctions on three Russian individuals, five companies related to these cyber-attacks against the U.S. Given all the back-and-forth about what Congress required and this administration being a slow or MIA, your view of putting these sanctions in context, is this part of what the Senate that you`re a part of wanted to do? Is it not enough what does it fit in?

WHITEHOUSE: I think we need to keep ratcheting the pressure up on the oligarchs that surround Putin. I think you have to look at the Russian government as essentially a racketeering enterprise with Putin as the principle, the leader of the gang and all of his capos are the leading oligarchs around him. And the most significant way to put pressure on him is to go after the oligarchs and to try to put as much transparency as we can into the international financial system so that we can, in fact, trace their money and know when they are seeking sanctuary for instance in the United States of America. And there are big steps that we need to take in that regard that we have not yet taken particularly with the United States becoming really the global sanctuary for foreign kleptocrats and money launderers by not cleaning up our shell corporations laws as other countries are doing.

MELBER: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, as always we learned something talking to you. Thank you for being here tonight.

WHITEHOUSE: My pleasure, Ari.



TRUMP: At a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people I`m sure tried to take that power away. So obviously he`s a pretty smart cookie. I feel that Kim Jong-un wants to do something great for his people and he has that opportunity.


MELBER: President Trump praising Kim Jong-un at times and now here we are hours away from this much-anticipated face-to-face summit. They will meet without aides only translators tonight in Singapore. How will it go?


TRUMP: Personally I think it`s going to be a success but we`ll see.

But we`ll see how it all works out.

Well, we`ll see what happens and it`s moving along pretty well so we`ll see what happens. Well, we`re moving along and we`ll see what happens.

We`ll see what happens.


MELBER: We will see it`s a common expression especially when the President likes and you can see starting with our special coverage at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight it is indeed special. Rachel Maddow, Brian Williams, Nicolle Wallace, and the cast of experts and analyst will be here walking us through to the lead up to the kind of meeting that in the age of hyperbole I can tell you is literally something that has never happened in the modern area of a presidential level summit about and with North Korea. And that does it for our special coverage tonight, I will see you back tomorrow at 6:00 Eastern for THE BEAT. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.



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