Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: June 11, 2018
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: -- presumably when they first come together, though, they may meet and then only emerge for the photo after knowing each other a short time.
The president rather famously already said this weekend, he needed just about a minute to size up his equivalent.
And, Ben, how much of the infrastructure of diplomacy and foreign affairs that would have traveled on a trip like this during your years is missing, are vacant positions? Is not perhaps venerated enough to be on a trip like this?
BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, OBAMA ADMINSTRATION: Well, basically, the infrastructure that you would use to prepare for a successful summit has not been in place. I mean, Victor Cha is here. A very good ambassador in Seoul. You now, we`ve had many State Department roles vacated.
We had in the Iran deal --
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Can you just say what you mean there? Victor Cha was going to be --
RHODES: Victor Cha was going to be the nominee for our ambassador to Seoul. And, you know, he said something along the way that upset somebody in the White House and got his appointment yanked back. Just like we`ve had lots of unfilled slots at the State Department, including many of the people who would have been doing the prep work for this summit.
Secondly, we had in the Iran nuclear negotiations Ernie Moniz, a world- renowned nuclear physicist who literally could sit there and tell you, you know, what we need to get on centrifuge reductions, what we needed to get in terms of converting a plutonium reactor.
WILLIAMS: Nobel Prize winner.
RHODES: Yes, a Nobel Prize winner. You know, they didn`t have to chant the Nobel after the Iran deal, he had it already.
And, you know, they`re not even bringing people with scientific expertise to the table to try to think through what is the scope of the North Korean program, how do we get assured that they`re going to put constraints on it and not just have a bunch of international journalists in blow up a building and say, you know, we`ve kept our commitments. So, what I have not seen is, you know, the scientific experts, the sanctions experts, the diplomatic experts, the types of people who would have spent months plowing the ground to make this a successful summit.
They have not been present for this. Instead we get the pageantry. We did have Mike Pompeo do some pre-meetings. But, you know, not clear what has been going on at a lower level. And now you have President Trump showing up for really what is a spectacle.
WILLIAMS: Sloppy wording by me a moment ago. I didn`t mean to say these gentlemen were equivalents. That was not a chosen word. Just --
WILLIAMS: I guess. Sure.
RHODES: They are now, though. That`s the key thing.
WILLIAMS: It does strike me we`re at 9:02 Eastern Time. Normally, we would be watching one Rachel Maddow.
MADDOW: I`d be hemming and hawing my way through something now.
As we await this handshake, Sue Mi Terry, I just want to ask you to just kind of put us in the mind frame of North Korean defectors, North Korean dissidents, people who have survived this regime, the most repressive totalitarian dictatorship on the face of the earth. When they see this handshake that`s about to happen, what is that going to mean to people?
SUE MI TERRY, SENIOR FELLOW & KOREA CHAIR, CSIS: I think they feel betrayed, particularly because we`re not putting human rights on the table, because you said this is a man that`s accused of crime against humanity. United Nations came out with a 400-page report talking about North Korea. There`s no parallel in contemporary history to what`s going on in North Korea in terms of human rights violations. The only parallel they`re talking about is Nazi Germany.
So, I think when the defectors are looking at this, they don`t know what to make of. I know there are many defectors in South Korea and some here who are very unhappy with it. But what they want, at least fervently hope, is at least President Trump raise the issue and make it a part of -- if there`s going to be some sort of normalization process, we have to make human rights issue a part of that.
WILLIAMS: We`ve just been told by -- sorry, Nicole. The pool producers who manage the cameras and wrangle the reporters who are there on scene tell us we`re within the two-minute window where we will see the leaders come out.
Nicole, I was fascinated to hear Jeremy Bash say even the iconography, which we`ve, to be honest, have duplicated here in this studio of the two flags together is diminishing to the U.S. side. Let`s take in this moment.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m very happy to meet you.
MADDOW: You see the photographers there scrambling to try to catch whatever else they can. We could hear that they were talking. At least to me I couldn`t necessarily make out what they were saying.
WILLIAMS: It was very difficult.
MADDOW: There were some direct words and then there were some translators.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST, "HARDBALL": Did you like the competition with the arms and the body movements where the president would grab him and sort of lead him like he was escorting him and then he went back and grabbed his arm. Kim grabbed his arm.
WILLIAMS: Very tactile.
MATTHEWS: They were competing there. Man to man.
MADDOW: Well, it`s at least a lot of touching. I`m not sure.
MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s a lot of touching. Competitive touching.
MADDOW: But it`s Trump -- not to be too weird about this. But it`s the president touching Kim Jong-un a lot.
MADDOW: It`s not mutual.
WILLIAMS: There`s a Neil Diamond song about that.
MADDOW: See what I`m saying? There`s a lot of gesturing and touching. Hand on the back. Hand on the arm. There`s a lot of smiling by the president.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST, "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE": Can I just -- I`ve heard from three national security officials since we`ve been on the air who have really grave concerns about what Ben described, the idea that all the substance of this meeting will take place in this one-on-one meeting without any foreign policy advisers. And I think as that has seeped in, as it has sunk in that that`s sort of it, they don`t leave that meeting and have three days that follow to drill down on the different areas.
But a lot of alarm -- also on the Larry Kudlow, a lot of concern I`m picking up from folks and around the White House around him. He`s beloved. He`s not been there long but he`s beloved. He`s beloved by the president. He`s beloved by the staff.
Obviously, he`s one of our colleagues, beloved here but --
MADDOW: We should just mention what that`s about in case you are just joining us. As the president was heading in his motorcade toward this event, the president -- somebody operate the president`s Twitter account, possibly the president himself, tweeted that the White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow has suffered a heart attack and is being treated at Walter Reed.
We do not have additional information about Mr. Kudlow`s condition. But as Nicolle noted, a lot of concern among people who know him and who work with him.
WALLACE: And the person that folks feel most concerned about not being in that meeting are obviously the national security adviser and an intelligence official because of how little we know about the program and because it`s possible that Donald Trump --
WILLIAMS: Here we go.
MADDOW: This appears to be live.
TRUMP: They never stop.
REPORTER: Mr. President, how do you feel about this meeting?
TRUMP: I feel really great. We`re going to have a great discussion and I think a tremendous success. We`ll be tremendously successful. And it`s my honor, and we will have a terrific relationship. I have no doubt.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
KIM JONG-UN, NORTH KOREAN LEADER (through translator): The past (INAUDIBLE) and the old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward, but we overcame all of them and we are here today.
TRUMP: That`s true.
TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This way. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, guys. Let`s go.
TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you.
WILLIAMS: What you just saw there, when you are pool cameraman or woman, your job is to stay open and stay shooting as long as you can --
MADDOW: Yes, I hope they keep this shot, actually. It gives us a sense of what kind of location they`re in and their isolation.
MADDOW: -- get you out, so, they`re being led down a hallway.
Sue Mi Terry is here. It strikes me with your language skills perhaps you picked up more of that than we did.
TERRY: Well, first of all, I have to tell you, it just still floors me every time I hear Kim Jong-un speak. This is the second time --
WILLIAMS: We don`t hear his voice.
TERRY: Yes, but Kim Jong-un when he spoke to Moon Jae-in, it`s so surprising to me. Wow, I`m actually hearing the North Korean leader talk because Kim Jong-un, of course, never spoke. Kim Jong-un -- we don`t even have one recording of Kim Jong-il speaking, his father.
TERRY: He was a total recluse.
Very interesting. Kim Jong-un said in Korean obviously that it was a very hard road for us to get to here, it was not an easy road, it was a very difficult road, but here we are.
MADDOW: That`s in contrast to what the president said. The president said it`s my honor. We will have a terrific relationship. I am sure it is going to be a success. The president giving him a thumbs-up.
So, you`re saying it was a contrast in tone.
TERRY: Yes, exactly. But it`s not that he was being negative, he was acknowledging the difficult road they have to walk before they could get here, right?
TERRY: So -- but it`s interesting because I -- just when you look at the body language, I guess they tried not to overly be smiling because Kim Jong-un when he met with Xi Jinping or Moon Jae-in was much more jovial, lighthearted. So, I just have to tell you, next 45 minutes is going to be very nerve-wracking moments for me. I hope President Trump doesn`t --
MADDOW: What are you the most worried about?
TERRY: What we were discussing earlier. That President Trump without any -- there`s no record of it, what he would offer Kim Jong-un, what he will offer on the table before we`re going to see any kind of real completely verifiable denuclearization of North Korea.
So, I don`t want him to offer a peace treaty. That would be my nightmare scenario. And I don`t want him to offer what Japan is worried about, some sort of half measure deal that maybe protects our homeland but that doesn`t take care of Japan and South Korea`s interest.
WALLACE: And this is what the foreign intelligence officials are worried about, that because Trump doesn`t read his PDB, he is not in the room with the intel on these matters that you raise. And because there is not a national security adviser in the room and because he doesn`t consume a PDB, and because there`s no intelligence official in the room, what is agreed to. And the bare minimum I`m hearing that can come out of there is a set of principles.
But that he`s not even armed with a set of experts that can get him tie set of principles because I doesn`t know the intel, he doesn`t know the weapons and he may very well do what you fear.
RHODES: And, you know, one of the things I couldn`t help thinking about watching that is, you know, I remember the first meeting that President Obama had with Raul Castro, for instance. And we made very certain that in that press availability that they just had, that President Obama would say, we`re going to continue to have differences. We had to say something that got at the fact that just because we have a meeting doesn`t mean that we agree with everything. We obviously had differences with Cuba on human rights. I didn`t hear anything about that from Donald Trump. I just heard how great it is to be there, it`s an honor.
Second thing is we also know that the North Koreans have the state-run media. They can splice that footage any way they want. So, they just got the president of the United States of America sayings it was an honor to sit down with Kim Jong-un. His grandfather, his father never achieved that. He just accomplished something that neither his father nor grandfather achieved and he didn`t have to give anything away to do it.
MADDOW: They`re clapping him on the back, holding him by the arm and smiling and giving him the thumbs up.
RHODES: That will run in a loop on North Korean television.
MATTHEWS: That is so historically significant. At end of the Cold War, we found out that Erich Honecker, the last dictator of East Germany, his greatest dream even though he probably didn`t like the United States, was to be received at the White House. And it was -- see, countries that don`t like us still respect us. They still know we`re the greatest country in the world. And to be received by the president and treated as an equal gives them something forever.
And I think this -- I think the thing about Trump, I keep thinking, everybody tends to take the job they`re driven and turn it into who they are, and try to find a way to fix their personality to the job. Trump has turned the presidency into a television show. And this is his show.
You used the term later -- earlier. You said this is a show.
MATTHEWS: The meeting to the other is for him I get to be sitting next to the president. That`s my photo op for history. For Trump, it`s somehow this meeting itself and they get along, and they`ll come out an hour or two later with a communique, how much we like each other and he likes basketball and I like basketball or some nonsense.
The show itself seems to be what the ultimate goal for Trump is. And the other guy it`s the photo op.
MADDOW: As a matter of visual, I also have to say, it is a little bit weird that they appear to be sitting on a Persian carpet, just in terms of the Iran --
MATTHEWS: What does that say? They`re flying?
MADDOW: No, in terms of the Iran deal. They`re sitting literally on -- I mean, I`m no expert but --
WILLIAMS: Sue, I`m worried that we have viewers tuning in who may have just heard you say that you hope they don`t agree to a peace treaty. Explain what that means for people who may not get the true meaning.
TERRY: Well, the Korean War began in 1950. When it ended in 1953, we didn`t formally end the war. So, Koreans are still technically at war.
When you conclude a peace treaty that formally ends the war, but what we are talking about is that -- what is that meaning or what is the meaning of that, what is the consequence of that, what is the implication of that? When you end the war formally, they will undercut the rationale of our commitment, our alliance commitment with South Korea. They will undercut the rationale for our troop presence in South Korea, because there`s no war. Why do we need our troops in South Korea?
So, what I`m afraid of is not that peace treaty`s bad. Of course, formally ending the war is fine and it`s good. It`s historic. But what if we end the war and North Korea does not give up nuclear weapons program? Because that`s probably what`s going to happen. So we`ve just ended the war, leaving South Korea still under threat under their nuclear weapons, and North Korea`s nuclear weapons, and we just gave away the major card.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Trump is that unaware of what you just said to blow it?
WALLACE: I just -- this is about (INAUDIBLE) this is about looking like a strong leader. This is about projecting strength to a domestic audience.
This is not about what keeps you awake at night. This is not about the job you had. We are projecting onto him normal things. There`s nothing normal about what we`re watching.
We`re not watching an American president conduct the most grave and serious --
MADDOW: But what he does is binding.
WALLACE: Well, of course it is. But he was excited to go for that reason, that picture right here, for this that we`re all sitting here.
I heard from two people, he`s excited because he thinks that makes him look like a strong leader and that`s the image he wants to project for his own re-election campaign and in the midterms.
MADDOW: In the 2008 election, Barack Obama was criticized for saying that if he were president, he would absolutely consider meeting and talking with the North Koreans. He said he would talk with Cuba. He said he would talk with North Korea. He said he would talk with Iran. He said he would talk with our enemies.
And that was cause for the American right to decide that Barack Obama was not just a Democrat, he was a foreigner who was sent on some nefarious mission to destroy the United States from within.
WALLACE: And he was weak. That was --
MADDOW: It was seen as weak and it was seen --
MADDOW: -- as being naive and it was seen as dangerous.
The relationship between American politics in this moment is almost as hard to get your head around as these pictures are.
MATTHEWS: You know, Rachel, that`s almost like retrieval from college ball days because today, everything is hour by hour. And people -- the lack of memory to retrieve that information is so normal now. People go, is that right? Was that a campaign issue?
MADDOW: When was Barack Obama president?
MATTHEWS: It`s astounding but it`s so pertinent to what we`re talking about, is to take a chance on a meeting like this, and Obama says, occasionally, you have to make these reaches for opportunities. We`ll see.
RHODES: I saw the scars, Rachel, from -- and I went to work for Barack Obama, the week that he had to debate where he said he would meet with the leaders of Iran, North Korea, and Cuba, if, you know, he thought it could advance our interests. And the fact of the matter is we know with Iran and Cuba, there`s a reason actually we didn`t meet with North Korea.
MADDOW: Which was?
RHODES: Well, the reason was what you just saw, that we did not believe that North Korea presented an opportunity that merited a head of state summit.
I will -- this is a very important point. I`m totally for diplomacy. You know, I believe right now that the best thing that we can get to make sure they don`t get that capacity to hit the United States homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile is some type of diplomatic agreement where they`re freezing their testing of missiles and nuclear weapons, and we`re potentially offering some degree of sanctions relief.
They`re skipping way ahead of that to the head of state summit. They`re giving one of the biggest concessions that we had to offer in that negotiating process. They would have come after that type of freeze for freeze, they freeze their nuclear program, we potentially freeze elements of our sanctions or even potentially elements of our military exercises.
We sat down, ultimately, President Obama sat down with the leader of Cuba and had at least a phone call with the leader of Iran, we didn`t have a face-to-face meeting with the leader of Iran, because we had historic breakthroughs. With Cuba, we normalized relationships. We established diplomatic relations, open embassies.
With Iran, they agreed to a deal that is so far ahead of anything that is contemplated here, preventing them from having nuclear weapons, shipping out 97 percent of their stockpile. And, ou know, here without anywhere near that we already have the photo op that is what Kim Jong-un ultimately wanted.
WILLIAMS: Let me bring in some perspective. A fellow author to all you guys here who have written books, historian. Michael Beschloss is with us here in our New York studios.
Michael, I just would like you to react to the conversation but more importantly, what we`ve heard, what we`ve seen from halfway around the world in the last few minutes.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, for starters, you know, Brian, one of the things you always ask is what is different about this. And one thing that is really different is the scene that we`re seeing right now, which is the president of the United States meeting with the North Korean leader in secret with only interpreters. You go back to Nixon and Zhou Enlai in China, 1972. He went with Kissinger. He went with other diplomats.
That`s usually the way it`s done. So, the question is, why is the president doing this in secret? What is he telling the North Korean leader and what is the North Korean leader telling him that can`t be heard by other members of their parties? And there is so much at stake. I think that`s a real question.
WILLIAMS: Let me ask you, Michael, a question that speaks to reading your history. And I`ll ask this very gently. What if during their conversation, Kim Jong-un says to Donald Trump, I would like to make an offer in good faith to return to you the Pueblo?
BESCHLOSS: Well, that would suggest that he is going back in history and for those of our viewers who don`t remember the "Pueblo," that was a Navy ship that was taken by the North Koreans, as you know, Brian, January of 1968 with about 80 American crewmen aboard, was held for most of that year, and had a lot to do with electing Richard Nixon because a lot of Nixon`s stump speeches were he said when a seventh-rate power like the North Koreans can take an American ship and hold it hostage, that means that there`s not enough respect for the United States.
MADDOW: Michael, it`s Rachel here. It`s nice to see you.
BESCHLOSS: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ve been talking a lot about how different this has been approached by this administration. Obviously, it`s different in terms of the top line. No U.S. president has ever agreed to meet with a North Korean dictator before, even though for 70 years, the North Koreans have wanted that.
But in addition to that the president has bragged about how he hasn`t prepared. There isn`t a South Korean ambassador. There hasn`t been preliminary staff work done for, you know, weeks or months or even years like there might have been done to prepare for something like this with another presidency. Do we have any examples from history about why those things are important? About why presidential preparation, why staff work, why not having a meeting without a note taker and those things are the protocol or the norm? How did we get those?
BESCHLOSS: It`s important so that if, you know, a president has a stomachache that day, that things do not go off the rails. Or if he forgets one of the things he`s supposed to bring up, you know, his diplomats will be there and saying, Mr. President, you know, you mentioned -- you meant to mention that as a requirement of the offer, you`re making you want this from the other side.
You know, when you have Donald Trump with what he said at the Republican Convention 2016, I alone can fix it, you know, a president alone is not necessarily the best guardian of American interests.
MADDOW: Michael, in terms of what is going to happen over the course of this evening, Andrea Mitchell reported right at the beginning of our broadcast that as far as NBC News sources go, we believe that whatever the communique is, whatever the agreement is, the joint statement was already agreed to before the president and Kim Jong-un sat down. We believe this is going to be about 45 minutes and there`s going to be an expanded bilateral agreement.
What do you think the odds are that there could be some surprises over the course of this evening? Or do you feel like at this point it`s essentially scripted?
BESCHLOSS: Well, I think as a baseline, you`re going to have what they agreed to, and that`s very much in the tradition of the history of normal diplomatic relations, you know, for instance, or negotiations. In `72 when Nixon met with Mao and Zhou, they had pretty much gotten close to what the result of that summit would be, which was among other things Shanghai communique, which said that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China. So, that`s a little bit reassuring.
But when you begin this summit with this secret meeting with only two other people there that might be extended, that opens the possibility that this could go into all sorts of directions that we are not anticipating and frankly not the best way to do it at least when one of the leaders in that room is the leader of a democracy.
MATTHEWS: Michael, let`s talk about the night not as a TV show but as an inflection point in history. I was checking the geography out the other day. The peninsula, Korean peninsula is 200 miles from Hiroshima. It`s less than 170 miles from Nagasaki.
Those are the last times that mankind used nuclear weapons against other elements of mankind. And the whole world has had almost three quarters of a century without the use of weapons we own, that we have the access to. When you look at the meeting happening in Singapore, is there a chance this is going to extend three quarters of a century or not, of not using nuclear weapons against each other?
BESCHLOSS: It would be nice to think, Chris. And, you know, one thing that we sometimes don`t remember about the Korean War is that Harry Truman was urged by some people to use the nuclear weapons we had at the time and Truman said absolutely not. He could have ended that war quite easily by using those.
So, you know, now, we`re getting into, Chris, the whole question of how this meeting might be looked at historically. Fifty years from now, if we`re looking back and historians and other Americans and others say, here was a chance that a general nuclear war that could have killed huge numbers of human beings not only on the Korean peninsula but in the northern hemisphere, that that was averted, that this will be a very great day in history.
On the other hand, if it doesn`t lead anywhere or if it doesn`t prevent that kind of danger, this will be seen in a very different light.
WILLIAMS: Michael Beschloss is here with us, and of counsel to us throughout the evening. Michael, thank you.
I`ve been told Kelly O`Donnell has some news to report from Singapore.
Kelly, it has to do with how the coming together of these two men came together.
KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brian, you`ve been talking about a lot of the stagecraft and the symbolism of what we`ve just witnessed. And what went into that? Of course, we know that the White House had to pull this together in a very short amount of time on the standard of summits of this scale.
They also had to weigh the varying equities of Singapore, the host country which is footing the bill, estimated at somewhere at US$15 million for security and logistics. One of the president`s top officials, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, Joe Hagen, who actually comes out of Bush world, having served both Presidents Bush in the past, it was his charge to try to negotiate with North Koreans.
And sources tell me that was a difficult task because of the lack of trust over time and part of what was required was trying to find ways to get the North Koreans to agree to some of the stagecraft that we have seen, the greeting, the display of the flags, who would be in the room, who would not be in the room. All of that was part of a negotiation that I`m told was at times contentious and difficult. At times, there was no cooperation from North Korea at all. At times, a willingness to step forward.
Joe Hagen has a lot of experience in this. He was one of the top officials doing it.
And then separately there have been delegations referred to as a working group led by Ambassador Kim and with representatives from the Department of State and the Department of Defense, experts in the area of energy and nuclear, the National Security Council, who have been meeting with North Korean counterparts over the last few weeks, multiple sessions a week. Some of that was done at the demilitarized zone. They of course have moved here.
And so, there have been a few orbits that have been below the surface and not getting as much of the attention as they`ve been trying to lead this time. Of course, we also know when there was the on again/off again part of this summit, one of the president`s top officials has said, it`s simply too short amount of time left to get this to possibly come together. So, there was a time pressure and there was what we understand some nodding to the concerns of North Korea and also Singapore.
One of the elements that Brian, you`ll appreciate, having been a White House correspondent yourself, there was not the full complement of journalists that we typically see, but for that handshake we are told, it was evenly matched. Two sets of journalists from North Korea and the United States balanced in just that moment -- Brian.
WILLIAMS: Kelly O`Donnell, covering it all from Singapore -- Kelly, thank you for that background.
MADDOW: I want to bring into the conversation now, Admiral James Stavridis. He`s a retired four-star admiral. He served from 2009 to 2013 as supreme allied commander of NATO. He`s now chief international security and diplomacy analyst for NBC News.
Admiral, thank you very much for being with us. We`re honored to have you with us here tonight.
JAMES STAVRIDIS, NBC NEWS CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AND DIPLOMACY ANALYST: Thanks a lot. Good to be with everybody.
MADDOW: When you look at these pictures tonight, just big picture, when you consider the fact that the president of the United States for the first time in history has decided to bring this pariah state into the community of nations or at least into an equal relationship with the president, with this sort of a meeting. What`s your overall reaction about this moment in history?
STAVRIDIS: Before I even get to that, Rachel, I just want to point out, we`ve really gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in the coverage in the sense that Michael Beschloss absolutely correctly says we may look at this as a real pivot point in history and then we default to the hey, who`s paying the hotel bill?
And I think that is a pretty good example of what we`re seeing here. It`s hard to score this one at this point. But if you ask me to put kind of a percentage on it, I would say I`m cautiously optimistic. Call it 70 percent chance that over time, if we`re patient, this could lead to a real defusion of tension and possibly a reduction of nuclear weapons.
Here`s the bad news. I think there`s a 20 percent, 25 percent chance that it just defaults back to the old way of doing business and there`s still going to be a 5 percent to 10 percent chance that the wheels really come off and we end up in a war-fighting situation.
But for this moment, we ought to enjoy the day. This is a good moment for diplomacy, compared to where we were six months ago. I`ll take it.
MADDOW: When the president or at least the secretary of state talk about offering security guarantees to North Korea, what does that -- what does that mean in civilian language? What are they talking about in terms of assurances we could give their leader or their country in terms of their security?
STAVRIDIS: Yes, great question. What Kim Jong-un will look for is first statements. Those are not particularly reassuring to him.
But he`ll want at least in writing that we are not going to seek to change the regime. More importantly, he will look for a reduction in military exercises between the United States and South Korea. He`ll look for a reduction in Japanese military activity around the peninsula.
He`ll look for a reduction in our reconnaissance flights. He`ll look for a reduction in our strategic bombers which can operate from great ranges over the peninsula. And ultimately, what he`s after is a significant reduction in the 28,000 U.S. troops that are on that peninsula.
He`s got a shopping list. He`ll work down that list. Our job is to not give in to that until we see absolute verifiable irreversible reduction and ultimately dispatch of those nuclear weapons on the peninsula.
MADDOW: The president repeatedly and even from before he was a public figure in political life has criticized the long-term presence of U.S. troops overseas in places like South Korea, where we`ve got tens of thousands of American troops stationed, as you know obviously. If the North Koreans are going to use the summit to push for reductions in those things you were just describing, in military exercises, in reconnaissance flights and the presence of those nuclear-capable B-52s -- if they`re going to push for that, how much could the U.S. give on those issues, before there was an effect on our closest allies, the South Koreans and Japanese in particular, for whom we`ve accepted responsibility to protect them?
STAVRIDIS: We absolutely have. These are treaty allies, Rachel. South Korea. Australia. New Zealand, and Japan in the Pacific.
And so, as we draw down our forces there, we do open up our national security concerns. And we ought to remember, our troops are there not as an act of goodwill to South Korea. They`re there to enhance U.S. influence in the region, to ensure that we keep those sea lanes of communication open, that our trade can flow freely, that we have a voice in the events there for the exact same reason that we still have about 50,000 troops in Europe.
They`re not there as an act of goodwill. They`re there to accomplish U.S. national security objectives. So, we draw them down at risk to those objectives, and it is very short-sighted to say oh, yeah, this will be a twofer. We can reduce tension and save some money by getting our troops off the peninsula. Not the right way to think about this one.
MADDOW: Retired Admiral James Stavridis, who is the supreme allied commander of NATO, pleasure to have you with us tonight, sir. Thank you so much.
STAVRIDIS: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: We are joined on the telephone to follow the story that broke on our watch by Robert Costa, the national political reporter for the "Washington Post" and moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS. And this is about the heart attack suffered tonight and announced this evening by the president on Twitter by Larry Kudlow, the president`s economic adviser, long-time on air personality at CNBC.
And, Bob, what do you have about his condition that could add to the story?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): Good to be with you.
Just got off the phone with Mrs. Kudlow, Judith Kudlow, and she is at the hospital with the White House`s top economic adviser. She says he is doing fine, that the doctors there are fabulous. We had a brief conversation for obvious reasons, spoke to numerous friends of Larry Kudlow tonight. They said he has been making phone calls, that he has been sitting up and talking, that he seems to be in the recovery stage at least at this moment.
I spoke to Dr. Art Laffer, one of his long-time friends for decades in the economics realm, by phone tonight. So, there`s some upbeat news in the inner circle around Larry Kudlow but details remain somewhat unclear about exactly what happened today.
WILLIAMS: Bob, let`s be honest. Larry Kudlow had an unusual day yesterday on the Sunday shows, and by that I mean this. He really went there on this almost manufactured fight with Canada, of all nations on the planet earth, and accused the Canadians of stabbing Donald Trump in the back. A lot of people who`ve known and been around Larry Kudlow a long time were very surprised at the tone and tenor and choice of words out of this guy just yesterday.
COSTA: That is true. Kudlow, for anyone who knows him and follows his career, he`s known for being a wry and gregarious television personality, economist. But he has adopted some of the president`s hard-line rhetoric while he joined -- since he joined the West Wing in March. And the language he used on the Sunday shows really reflects how many advisers around President Trump, even Larry Kudlow, take up Trump-style language, Trump-style rhetoric once they`re inside the White House.
But he`s really seen as a steady hand, a seasoned presence who`s worked going back to the Reagan administration in Republican White Houses and Republican federal administrations. And so he provides this outsider president with some inside knowledge.
WILLIAMS: Again, the story is a story tonight not because any news media entity put it out, but the president in the minutes before meeting Kim Jong-un tweeted out the fact that Larry Kudlow had suffered a heart attack and had been taken to Walter Reed. So, we all scrambled to find out his condition. We are happy to receive Bob`s reporting that his wife is painting his condition as having improved.
Robert Costa, national political reporter with the "Washington Post," thank you very much.
MADDOW: And to the point that you were just raising in terms of where we have just recently seen Larry Kudlow, I mean, it is -- we`re watching this happen right now as we speak. President Trump is in there one on one speaking with Kim Jong-un. I mean, within 36 hours, right, we`ve had this administration say there is a special place in hell for the Canadian prime minister and it`s an honor to be meeting with the dictator of North Korea and we are going to have a terrific relationship.
MATTHEWS: On "Face the Nation" yesterday, it`s just what you were talking about. That was a very hot show with "Face the Nation " yesterday, with Lawrence making that really over-the-top sort of defense of the president. And I think -- you could see the stress in his face.
MATTHEWS: I don`t think he was comfortable playing that part. But he was a bit of an attack dog there for the president. As Robert just said, Robert Costa, people are so often forced to play the part of very, very aggressive defenders of the president.
WALLACE: Can I just say, I know you`re not a fan of Bush foreign policy. But we never had a fight with Canada.
WALLACE: It`s very hard to have a fight with Canada. You have to work at it. They`re very good friends and neighbors.
WILLIAMS: Very polite.
WALLACE: I think it was General Hayden who tweeted on Saturday that every time he has been in service of his country in any capacity, there has been a Canadian alongside him. I mean, they serve alongside Americans in combat. It`s very hard to get Canada, France, the E.U., all of our best friends mad at us at one time.
MADDOW: While also being very honored to meet with Kim Jong-un.
WILIAMS: On the eve of this summit.
MATTHEWS: By the way, they were alongside us at Normandy, I think we should remind ourselves with that.
MATTHEWS: The Sword Beach.
But I think it`s interesting, there`s the case of not knowing what you`re talking about. Trump has to understand, which he doesn`t, when dealing with the Canadians, you`re dealing with all these sectoral issues. Cedar shakes and shingles is a big issue with -- I worked with them over the years.
They have particular sectoral concerns about agriculture and stuff. To a smaller country, they matter to them. They have to cut them very specifically.
In fact, Churchill once said about British farm economics, we go macro, let`s make a big deal, let`s sweeping decide these things. And the Canadians have to be careful what they protect in their industries. I don`t think Trump understood --
WALLACE: Forget about understanding the specific, that`s a given, he doesn`t understand specifics about anything. The idea -- and again, I say this to you as my friend. I know you`re not a Bush foreign policy fan. But we never botched a summit in Canada or Mexico. This is low-hanging diplomatic fruit.
RHODES: And, you know, here we`re all accustomed to living with the reality show, right? So, this happens, yesterday, he`s fighting with the prime minister of Canada, today, he`s meeting with Kim Jong-un.
Around the world, right, they don`t have the luxury of just indulging and, you know, what`s the fight in the United States. They are looking -- if you`re sitting in Europe or you`re sitting in Tokyo or you`re sitting in Seoul or you`re sitting in Beijing, you`re looking at a situation where the president of the United States of America is picking fights with our closest allies, inviting Russia back into the G-7, calling Kim Jong-un an honorable guy.
Like this is something that is going to change the foreign policy calculations of all of these countries.
WALLACE: Friends and allies.
RHODES: Friends and allies.
MADDOW: The president is -- I don`t think -- the only way I disagree with you, my dear friend, on this is I don`t think it was a botch.
WALLACE: I don`t either.
MADDOW: I think that the president went to the G-7 with the intent of blowing it up. That`s why he was late to everything. That`s why he had the arms crossed. That`s why he was being rude to people.
And then as soon as he was away and didn`t have to say it to their face, he blew it up on the flight to North Korea because there`s something going on with our president, he`s all of our president. There`s something going on with him where he thinks it`s to his advantage for this spectacle he`s created right now in Singapore to have blown things up with Canada and with the G-7 and with our closest allies heading into it.
What I don`t understand is how he thinks it`s going to work. Nobody else thinks it should work that way. Everybody else, it looks backwards. But to him, this is all on purpose.
So, why does he think that sets him up well for this?
RHODES: And the bill will come due later. The thing about foreign policy is it takes months or years for the consequences to become clear. We count on these people in a crisis, when there`s a terrorist attack, when we need to launch an intervention, when he need to a counter ISIS coalition, when we`re trying to put together a non-proliferation agreement.
We count on Canada and Europe to be with us, Japan, South Korea. He`s making it that much more likely that they`re not going to be with us in a pinch the next time we need them.
MADDOW: Why does he want to seem like we are alone in the world and don`t have any alliances before he goes and talked to North Korea? In terms of his own thinking about this?
TERRY: Does he want to look tough and that`s the message to the North Koreans? I am such a tough guy. Even with Canada --
MADDOW: Even my friends hate me I`m so tough.
RHODES: He`s so tough he issued the statement on Twitter after he left. He couldn`t say it to Justin Trudeau to his face.
WALLACE: I don`t think we should discount the idea -- it`s not a coincidence this is what Putin desires. We`re just chalking that up to coincidence? Putin`s desire is for the United States of America to have this much distance between America and England.
MATTHEWS: What are you saying?
WALLACE: I`m just saying do you think it`s a coincidence --
MATTHEWS: I`m asking. Is it?
WALLACE: I don`t know. You tell me. I don`t believe in coincidences anymore.
MATTHEWS: Prosecutors don`t believe in them either.
WALLACE: This is precisely what Vladimir Putin wanted an American president to carry out, a policy that alienates us from our closest friends and --
RHODES: Putin`s getting the return -- the greatest return on Putin`s meddling in the election took place this week at the G-7. But also, Trump has been ha habitually more comfortable with authoritarians. Whether it`s Duterte in the Philippines, Erdogan in Turkey, Putin in Russia, Xi Jinping in China, he`s consistently praised them --
WALLACE: And hostile to NATO.
MATTHEWS: Why aren`t we friends with countries like our own? We value democracy, we value free press, we value free speech and all the rights of people, and we -- these countries agree with us on that stuff, all the countries in the G-7 are like us and the ones he wants to be friends with, Russia and North Korea, are not like us, about basic human values.
MADDOW: And he insists that Russia should come back into the G-7. Russia which has an economy the size of Spain, which is not a democracy and which was thrown out for good reason, he wants them back. Putin today said that he`d be happy to host the G-7 in Moscow, except he`s not sure he wants in anymore because he`s got a good deal going on with China now that maybe is better than the G-7 anyway.
Putin doesn`t want America to have the foreign policy that we have. He also doesn`t want the West to have any cohesion, so that he can reform the international world order with his own pitifully underperforming country operating and punching above its weight as a foreign superpower.
RHODES: And pick off European countries from our Atlantic alliance into his orbit, get the pressure off of his borders.
This has been his objective ever since the protests in Ukraine that led to the annexation of Crimea. I was there when President Obama called him to tell him he won be in the next G-8 meeting. Putin was not happy about that. He hung it all on the fact that he said we were behind the protests in Ukraine that led to the ouster of Yanukovych, when in fact they were people protesting on behalf of anti-corruption and democracy.
Now, we have a president of the United States who won`t even speak up for democracy around the world. Not necessarily a coincidence when you consider what Vladimir Putin has been doing since those protests in Ukraine in 2014. He developed an information warfare capability that he used in Ukraine and then he brought it in to our election. And as we`ve heard most recently from the DNI, Dan Coats, he`s going to do it again in the midterm elections and the next one.
And that`s why this week, this convergence of events, is really bigger than even just the summit tonight. We`re seeing kind of reordering of what the role is the United States plays in the world, that we`re going to be dealing with for many years to come.
WILLIAMS: Well, we have learned tonight the lengths to which the staffs of 43 and 44 went to keep the peace with Canada. Seems so quaint and dated as of this past weekend.
WALLACE: The ties that bind.
WILLIAMS: The two leaders are talking. That`s why you may have sampled some talking on our end.
This was from earlier. Cameras have been expelled from where they are. We`re going to slip in a break.
Obviously, if anything comes out of there, we will hop back in and go immediately live to Singapore. Otherwise, please stay with us. Our live coverage continues just on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re going to have a great discussion and I think tremendous success. It will be tremendously successful. And it`s my honor. And we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president saying we will have a terrific relationship no doubt, predicting a tremendously successful discussion and saying it is his honor to meet with the dictator of North Korea.
That one-on-one meeting, no U.S. president has ever before acceded to the North Korean demands for a one-on-one meeting with the U.S. president. But that meeting is happening right now.
While we await the end of that meeting and the start of what we expect to be the next more extended bilateral discussion, we`re going to bring in NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel who`s been watching tonight`s proceedings from Seoul.
Richard, what can you tell us?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, people here have been watching this very, very closely. If you think it has been an emotional roller coaster watching President Trump`s foreign policy, particularly regarding North Korea, from the United States, it has been an absolutely wild ride in this country. People have so much at stake here. They feel that their lives are being debated in real time.
Six months ago, there were protests on the streets here in Seoul. I was in the middle of the protests. People were calling President Trump a warmonger. They thought he was going to provoke a war with his rhetoric with North Korea, that North Korea was demonstrating its willingness to have a war every time it launched another missile or blew up another nuclear weapon.
And people here thought that Seoul was potentially going to get destroyed and that hundreds of thousands of people in the city were going to get killed. Now, they are watching handshakes, the two leaders sitting down appearing like normal leaders. I was surprised to see Kim Jong-un sitting in that seat fielding questions from pool reporters shouting out questions at him. That is not the kind of North Korean leader that people in this country are used to seeing, that people anywhere in the world are used to seeing.
Back at home, back in North Korea --
WILLIAMS: Excuse me, Richard --
ENGEL: -- the leaders are treated more like gods and able to field questions.
WILLIAMS: This is a live picture. Let`s listen in.
REPORTER: Will you give up your nuclear weapons, sir?
WILLIAMS: We`re going to rerack that sound and listen again and see if the second time around we can make out more of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, how is the meeting going so far, sir? Any progress, Mr. President? Mr. President, how is it going so far, sir?
TRUMP: Very good.
REPORTER: What do you think?
TRUMP: Very, very good. Thank you very much.
REPORTER: Mr. Kim, will you give up your nuclear weapons, sir?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: I don`t think Kim Jong-un is used to the voice of Jim Acosta of CNN on a regular basis. We were listening along with you, straining to hear that, including the question, will you give up your nuclear weapons sir?
Sue Mi Terry, you heard President Trump say fabulous relationship?
TERRY: Very, very good.
MADDOW: Very, very good, excellent relationship, thank you.
WILLIAMS: Well, it`s superlative day.
MATTHEWS: So, what is this a progress party? They`re going from room to room? I mean, or is that a proof of life picture?
RHODES: That was a pretty long --
WILLIAMS: That was a long walk.
RHODES: That was a long one on one, right? I mean, we were talking about they were in there with no note takers, no national security officials. That, you know, I can tell you, when you have the one on ones with note takers, generally, they`d be 15 minute, half an hour, and you have a larger group for the meeting. To have 45 minutes, 40 minutes just those two men, only two people who really know what was discussed in that room, you know, that`s very unique for these types of --
MADDOW: And we should say, what`s happening now is that the one on one has just happened. Again, as Ben was saying, just President Trump and a translator and Kim Jong-un and a translator. Now, they`re going to an additional meeting which will be both leaders again and extended staff and will have a number of administration officials there.
What`s the purpose of having a follow on meeting after you had the one on one?
RHODES: Well, you know, when we used to do this with one staffer present, which Trump didn`t have, you would have the most sensitive conversation with just the leaders there. Then you would kind of go in, you would potentially read out that conversation to the secretary of state and the national security advisor and other officials.
MADDOW: There`s a live shot of the extended bilateral.
TRUMP: Mr. Chairman, thank you for the success today (INAUDIBLE) until this point it`s been unable to do so, working together, we will get it taken care of. Thank you.
TRUMP: We will be successful. And I look forward to working on it with you. It will be better.
TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. everybody. Thank you. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you, sir.
WILLIAMS: Love to know what that last thing was the president said to Kim Jong-un before the camera went out of reach.
It`s important to realize we will get transcripts of this because the White House communications staff, actually, the folks who put out the challenge coin prior to this summit. They have stenographers there using long boom mikes. Their job is to take it down, transcribe it, and let us know what was said even though it`s hard to discern.
So, you saw there, General Kelly, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, John Bolton, national security adviser, next to the president is the translator for the U.S. side of the table.
MADDOW: Sue Mi Terry, again, with your language skills, were you able to discern more than we were in terms of what that exchange was about?
TERRY: It was hard to tell because I couldn`t really hear what he had to say. But it makes me think that after this, we`re going to get a statement. And both of them -- they`re still very respectful. There are a lot of honorific language -- Korea has a formal and informal part, a lot of honorific language, also used by Kim Jong-un.
So, I think there`s going to be a joint statement. Both of them are going to leave this meeting, say, call it a success. They`ll agree on a process for further meetings down the road, after commitment to denuclearize in turn for improving relationship or something like that. And I think it will lay out a process in which they`ll be sort of reading. So, I think this process will continue, maybe Trump will go to Pyongyang next.
MADDOW: We have -- wow. Next year in Mar-a-Lago, next year in Pyongyang.
I realize it is rare just to hear the voice from the North Korean dictator. We have now heard from him twice in these two instances. Before the one on one and now here at the start of the extended bilateral meeting.
Did you notice any change in tone or language or style from him between -- I`m sorry -- before and after his one on one with Trump?
TERRY: He seemed softer. Didn`t it come across that way? He seemed softer to me, like he was a little bit more rigid in the beginning. So, I don`t want to read too much into it. I`m actually -- I didn`t catch exactly what he said, I`m actually curious if he spoke English to Trump at all one on one.
WILLIAMS: What do we know about his English language skills?
TERRY: Because we do think he speaks English. Not fluently, but he does speak English. So, it would be a nice gesture to sort of, you know --
MATTHEWS: Wasn`t he in an English language program when it was in boarding school there?
TERRY: Yes. I think he also said something in English to Secretary Pompeo when he met with him.
WILLIAMS: And I think he said some things in English to Dennis Rodman, which as crazy as it sounds was part of the brief that every president gets because for a long time, that was the only American who saw this North Korean leader, this North Korean leader.
Victor Cha is standing by.
Victor, you`ve been listening to our conversation to Sue Mi Terry. What would you add, based on either body language or overheard language itself?
END THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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