Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: June 11, 2018
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: 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?
VICTOR CHA, NBC NEWS KOREAN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think when they -- Brian, when they first met, at the very beginning when they first met, it was clear that President Trump was talking to Kim Jong-un, there were no interpreters around and Kim Jong-un was responding in English. So he does speak English as Sue said.
I think the other thing is that, you know, the bigger -- this bigger meeting, as Ben said, is important but not nearly as important as the one on one and potentially not as important as the working lens particularly if Kim and Trump sit next to each other where they can have more quiet, confidential trust building sort of conversations.
The other piece that we`re still missing is the surprise. I mean, both of these leaders like surprises. When Kim Jong-un met with the South Korean leader in April, remember they met at the demarcation line and then Kim pulled him across to the North Korean side, pulled the South Korean leader over. And then when President Trump made his first trip to South Korean, he said there`s a big surprise coming in, he tried to make an unannounced trip to the border, to the demilitarized zone, but it was called back because of very heavy fog.
So, we haven`t seen the surprise piece of this but both leaders like surprises.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Victor, can you imagine a communique coming out tomorrow morning our time here, in which Kim agrees to denuclearize and public says he will -- how would that go over with the North Korean people to hear that they`re giving away what they fought for all these years to have, which is a nuclear capability? Would he actually say I`m going to give it away? Is that even feasible? Imaginable?
CHA: I don`t think so. He has a domestic audience, too. And the notion that he would publicly say he`d give it all away to me doesn`t seem very likely.
I think what`s holding up the joint statement is our side, the U.S. side, wants some sort of time frame, because for President Trump, domestically, you know, he has to get it by 2020. A 15, 20-year timeline for denuclearization, all the critics will say that`s nothing. We`ve had those in the past and those have all failed. So, I think there`s a pressure on trying to get some sort of timeline.
I think maybe the president is trying to get this in his one-on-ones with the North Korean leader. But again, that`s not going to be written down anywhere. So, he may say it, but we`ll never know whether the North Korean leader actually agreed to something like that.
MADDOW: Victor, I was struck by one of the things that was seen visibly in the lead-up to this meeting in Singapore tonight was that President Trump hosted the former head of North Korean military intelligence in what seemed to be a sort of impromptu meeting in the Oval Office for more than an hour. It`s about an 80 or 90-minute meeting. That former head of North Korean military intelligence is credited with having turned North Koreans military intelligence assets into some of the greatest hacking powers on the face of the Earth. He`s also credited with a lot of other -- having masterminded a lot of other aggressive military action by North Korean, including the torpedoing of a South Korean ship in 2010.
Is it possible that we are going to have multilayer continuing interactions with North Korea, in a way we haven`t led up to with this meeting. The military intelligence chief sitting in the Oval Office to me seems like an important breach itself in terms of the kind of relationship that we`ve had in the past with what has previously been a pariah state.
CHA: Yes, I think that`s right. And the other thing, Rachel, was that he`s designated under Treasury designations. So, under any other circumstances, he would probably be arrested if he went to any other country.
You know, I think a lot of us are looking at this and expecting there will be a statement between the two leaders but it`s really the process that follows it, the negotiation process to implement the broad statements made by the leader. And there, you know, the high level that you would be looking for is the continued interaction between Mike Pompeo and Kim Yung- chol, the number two in North Korea, who as you mentioned was a guest of the president in the Oval Office.
But until we see that sort of real negotiation, that institution being established for negotiations along a specified time line, everybody is going to say, well, this is the same horse, we just bought it again for a fourth time.
MATTHEWS: What is -- what is the North Koreans think when they look across the table and see John Bolton there, with his mustache and all? I just want to -- it`s like having Curtis LeMay show up at the Cuban talks. I mean, they know that this guy is a hawk. What do think of his presence there?
I`m just curious how much they know about our politics.
CHA: Well, first o fall, they know he`s a hawk. And for the North Koreans on the other side, they have hawks too. I had once had a North Korean come up to me during negotiations, and say, Dr. Cha, we know you`re a hawk, but I`m a hawk too, so we understand each other.
CHA: You know, there`s nothing wrong in negotiations with having a hawk at the table. John Bolton invented the term CVID, complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement. But I think when they put a statement really criticizing Bolton and the president came out and said, well, we`re not doing CVID, we`re not doing Libya, you know, it really undercut Bolton in the eyes of the North Koreans.
So, he`s at the table, but they know the guy they`re working with is really Pompeo.
WILLIAMS: Victor, let`s talk about the working lunch. What percentage is working and what percentage lunch?
CHA: Well, you know, a lot of it, and Ben knows as well, a lot of it frankly depends on the seating. I mean, if they put somebody between the president and the North Korean leader, they won`t be able to interact as much. I`ve seen past presidents switch the name cards so that they could sit next to each other, so that they can have -- continue the conversation that they`ve been having from earlier in the morning.
And if they are sitting right next to each other, I think there`ll be a lot of business. I mean, there`s not a lot of time left to this summit meeting. And the president is going to want to get as much time as he can trying to get the statements that he wants out of the North Korean leader.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST, "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE": You know, something you both pointed out to me in the last couple days, is that Donald Trump isn`t an in-person negotiator. He`s an in-person bloviator.
There will not be a great exchange at this lunch. He talks and people that have interviewed him, if you listen or watch, people don`t get a lot of questions in --
WILLIAMS: He fills the space.
WALLACE: -- with Donald Trump.
A comment is made, a position is put on the table either by the North Koreans or by Pompeo, and then Trump can go for 25 minutes. It`s not inconceivable they don`t make much more progress, something else that our Kier Simmons reported today and shared with us at 4:00 p.m. is that both men are liars. He said Kim Jong-un lies and he said Donald Trump lies.
So, it is at this point, and I`ve talked to two former senior official intelligence officials, it`s a known/unknown what was discussed and it is not knowable that we`ll ever know what happened in the meeting because both men are known and established liars.
MADDOW: That`s hard.
WILLIAMS: Well, Rumsfeld just had a chill.
WALLACE: That was Kier Simmons reporting. I mean, we all know that about Donald Trump. I didn`t know that about --
MADDOW: Does it make it a dangerous meeting because everybody knows both men lies? And so, it`s one thing if you had somebody you trusted and they said X just happened in the meeting, X definitely happened, and the other person contested it but you didn`t know whether or not to believe them. That would be a more dangerous situation than two guys saying X happened, no you rode in on a unicorn.
WALLACE: It means to their domestic audiences, they can say whatever they damn well please.
MADDOW: But nobody will believe either of them.
WALLACE: Well, nobody in the other country, but I think their domestic -- Trump`s base consumes what he`ll say and I`m guessing the state run media will consume what Kim said.
WILLIAMS: I`m glad you mentioned domestic audience. We have a message for our domestic audience. Hi camera. That is that it`s 10:07 p.m. normally in this hour, our viewers are showing up looking for one man, Lawrence O`Donnell, who has joined here in New York.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST, "THE LAST WORD": They show up looking for Lawrence O`Donnell and company because my guests are, of course, smarter than I am.
WILLIAMS: Well, that`s how -- we`ve built a whole show around that theory.
O`DONNELL: Well, this is the problem of two liars walk into a room. And they close the door, less -- they spent less time than the president predicted they would by the way. It was less than the 45 minutes.
And so, we will, in fact, never know. History will never know. The idea that no one was taking notes is -- certifies for history we will never know. The translators are so intensely involved in literally that job of translating and saying as quickly as possible what the other person just said, and saying it in accessible language to the person they`re speaking to, to ask them after the fact what was said is the closest you can come to getting something accurate.
But anyone who`s been in meetings like this can tell you it is impossible to remember every word.
Donald Trump we know will lie about what was said in that room. He might also say something true that was said in that room. That might happen. He will also take something that was said in that room and twist it to his advantage in a way that a lot of politicians might.
But he will definitely, without question, invent things that were not said in that room, and claim they were.
MATTHEWS: Do you see his translator, interpreter, is taking notes?
MATTHEWS: What`s that tell us?
WILLIAMS: I`ve watched translations like this happen. They sometimes will make steno notes to themselves as they go, which I suppose can be read back as a skeleton of the conversation.
O`DONNELL: That depends entirely on how long the speaker speaks.
WILLIAMS: That`s right. Because sometimes, especially with Kim and with Donald Trump, they can go on at some length. And so, when it`s your turn to now say exactly what was said, you better have a few notes there.
But these are also people not trained in what the key words are. Speaker speaks. Sometimes, especially with Kim and Donald Trump, they can go on at some length so when it`s your turn to now say exactly what was said, you better have a few notes there.
But these are also people not trained in what the key words are. What are the most important possible words.
WILLIAMS: Denuclearize, for example.
O`DONNELL: That`s a good one, yes.
MADDOW: In terms of who`s winning here, I`m struck by the fact that China is kind of the elephant in the room, right? So, we`ve got -- China is responsible for more than 90 percent of the economic activity -- economic support that North Korea gets. We have previously in this country seen China as the road to all outcomes when it comes to North Korea, they would be the determining factor in terms of what happened or couldn`t happen with North Korea.
Does China want this to be happening right now? How does China feel about what`s happening in this room? Presumably they could still kibosh any deal that North Korea makes if they don`t want it to go ahead.
SUE MI TERRY, SENIOR FELLOW & KOREA CHAIR, CSIS: It`s true. But I think China does want the meeting because it will lead to improvement in relationships, to some degree. If it can lead to reduction of troops, as we talked about earlier, that really helps China.
MADDOW: China wants troops out of South Korea as well.
TERRY: Absolutely, or the strategic assets, all that you talked about earlier, China wants that. In fact, after Xi Jinping met with Kim Jong-un second time, remember Kim Jong-un came back and all of a sudden, he had problem with joint exercises -- U.S./South Korea joint exercises, when Kim Jong-un couple months prior to that was OK with joint exercises. He told South Koreans that.
So, there`s a theory out there that maybe Xi Jinping told Kim Jong-un that`s the ask that he needs to ask the United States. So, China is definitely playing a hand. They want to make sure they have their influence, continue the maximum influence over North Korea. I think that`s paramount for China and they don`t want to be sidelined. They want to be a player. They want to be very involved in this whole process.
O`DONNELL: But China also wants us to remain dependent on China in tough situations with North Korea. It`s one of China`s most important, strategic assets that it has -- it`s had historically with the United States whenever we`ve considered sort of a harsh response to China on trade or currency or other things in the past. One of the things said inside the White House would be, well, but we do need them on this thing we`re trying to do with North Korea.
China will always want to hold onto that. So, they -- there`s some optimal level of progress for China and nothing beyond that would be welcomed by China.
MATTHEWS: Is there any chance that North Korea will try to make a break from China? In the future, in the years coming? And try to establish itself as an independent force over there?
TERRY: I think that`s a long-time coming. I mean, maybe way into the future. I think as Rachel said, China is still responsible -- North Korea is -- 93 percent of North is traded with China still. So I think that`s a long time later, possibly down the road, but I don`t see that happening any time soon.
So, even though North Koreans are not happy with Chinese, they`re not. Their whole blood alliance relationship has fundamentally changed from the earlier years, when Mao Zedong lost his own son in the Korean War. There was true blood alliance relationship, but that has evolved and changed.
Still, I think they`re still allies. They still have mutual interest. So I don`t see North Korea really breaking away from China towards the United States any time soon.
MADDOW: Let`s bring back into the conversation, NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel who joins us from Seoul and who was talking to us for the first time this evening when President Trump and Kim Jong-un so rudely interrupted him.
Richard, we`re happy to have you back. You`re watching this from Seoul.
One of the things we have been talking about tonight repeatedly is the prospect that one of the things that may be on the table tonight for lots of different reasons is a reduction of U.S. troops in South Korea. How is that playing? How does that look from where you stand right now in Seoul?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: So, one of the things I noticed about this moment, as I was speaking and then the two of them came out, is how many photo ops there have been. There was the initial moment where President Trump and Kim Jong-un came out and they shook hands, then they walked in together into the room. And then they came out and very deliberately paused at the balcony and then there was the other photo on in the extended conference with President Trump and Kim Jong-un reaching over and shaking hands.
So, you have to -- you have to think, who was the audience here? How are each of these countries going to spin this tomorrow? I think it`s pretty clear how President Trump is going to spin it tomorrow. He`s going to say, I did something that President Obama was never able to do. That no other president did.
I reached over to an enemy and I had this historic summit and I did something amazing. Kim Jong-un, national TV, I think he`s going to splash it all across Pyongyang and it`s going to show that the Kim dynasty after having achieved its nuclear weapons is now recognized by the United States and it`s been recognized by the international community.
Here where I am in Seoul, and getting back to your question, I think the president here is going to say that his peace initiative worked. That he wanted this peace initiative. He began with the Pyongyang Olympics, which he called the Peace Olympics.
And now, we`re seeing two enemies sitting down, American flags, North Korean flags in the same room. And he can tell his audience in this country that he did something. And already, the South Korean president`s approval ratings are somewhere above 70 percent. So these three individuals, just from this photo-on are going to get a tremendous amount out of this.
Now, what happens down the road? Will there be more than a photo op? Will this lead to reduction of troops? Will this really lead to a denuclearization? I think we`ll have to see what happens.
But tomorrow I think both -- all three of these people are going to be claiming this was an enormous success just from what we`ve seen so far. And who knows if there will be a reduction of troops on the Korean peninsula, will that benefit China? Will the North Koreans actually allow inspectors in? In that could play out over months, if not years.
MADDOW: We`ve seen, Richard, the North Korean and South Korean leaders meet at the demilitarized zone. We`ve seen already historic discussions between them that never seemed possible before this year. One of the things that has been described as potentially on the table that President Trump might be either conceding or pushing for in these talks is potentially a peace treaty between the North and South.
It`s one of these strange bits of trivia that you learn in foreign policy 101, that even though the Korean War ended in 1953, technically, the war is still ongoing because there was a cessation of hostilities but no peace treaty to end it.
What would be the consequences there, at least from Seoul`s perspective, where you stand in South Korea?
ENGEL: Again, it would be a huge victory for the current government, the Moon Jae-in government. It`s largely symbolic, and everybody knows that the Korean War is over. The Korean War ended. About 40,000 Americans lost their lives in that war.
Technically, the parties are still at war, but it would be just a formality really at this stage ending that war. It would be highly symbolic. Both the north and the south would say this is a positive step that could lead to more political interactions between the two of them. It would be an important thing.
And I think at the end of the day, perhaps even today in some sort of joint communique that we`re going to get, there will be some talk about reaching an end of the war. I wouldn`t be surprised if at the end of the day, we have some statement that says that the parties are committed to working toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and working toward ending the war, formally ending the war. That`s what we`re seeing -- the guidance we`re getting here in Seoul, anyway, that that will be the main messages. That will be what they`ve been driving for.
But the devil is in the details. Does ending a war that has been over for decades actually do anything? It gives people here a symbolic victory, and does working over some unspecified time period to denuclearize the Korean peninsula actually change anything? The photo op is the victory. We`ll see if there`s a lot of follow-up.
MADDOW: NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel joining us from Seoul. Richard, thank you, my friend. It`s good to see you.
And to that point that he`s raising about whether or not that is just a symbolic thing. I mean, I think Sue Mi Terry`s point from earlier this evening that a peace agreement, an agreement to end the war might also be expected to take away the legal if not political justification for having tens of thousands of U.S. troops in South Korea. So, whether it was greeted symbolically or practically we`d have to see.
TERRY: Absolutely. And there`s a difference between peace declaration and formally concluding a peace treaty where you actually sign, formally ending --
WILLIAMS: An armistice, yes.
TERRY: Yes. There`s a difference. You can have a peace declaration.
Sure, say it, let`s end the war, let`s end the hostilities. Let`s improve relationship. That`s what we really is an armistice. We can do that particularly if North Korea puts something on the table.
But formally ending the war by signing the peace treaty, that`s different. That does undermine -- yes, that does take away the legal justification of U.S. troops being there.
MADDOW: Very important.
WILLIAMS: This is why we`ve had the leading experts in the field in the studio here with us tonight. A brief break in our coverage. Obviously, if anything happens from Singapore, we`ll come right out of it.
Please stay with us. Our live coverage continues on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, how is the meeting going so far, sir? Any progress, Mr. President?
REPORTER: Chairman Kim, will you denuclearize?
REPORTER: Mr. President, how`s it going so far, sir?
TRUMP: Very good.
REPORTER: What do you think?
TRUMP: Very, very good. Excellent relationship. Thank you. Thank you very much.
REPORTER: Chairman Kim, will you denuclearize?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So, that`s when the two leaders were about to leave for a meeting with aides and then it`s from there to a working lunch.
Our sit rep, our situation report is unchanged. We don`t know anything more from the inside. We do have some folks standing by with a lot of experience with North Korea specifically.
Our next guest has been -- let`s run through it, congressman, a governor, an ambassador, and a cabinet secretary, long-time former governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, is one of the new Americans alive today who have negotiated with the North and successfully brought people out of there.
Governor, if you had just a moment to take the president aside, give him a little kind of nugget, a kernel of truth, something to remember and never forget during his talks with Kim Jong-un, what would it have been?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER ENERGY SECRETARY & U.N. AMBASSADOR: Well, it would have been what he`s done. Take him aside, get a relationship going, develop some trust. Don`t listen back and forth to the grievances that each country has.
What I liked was the body language. I liked the vibrations that both kind of emanated. You know, the president says very good about everything he`s ever done. So I think we have to wait for the details, especially on the nuclear side.
On the good news, just looking at the table, where they sat for lunch, I noticed some positives and maybe some questions. On the positive side, the Foreign Minister Ri is there, I`ve met him. He wants to work things out. He was sitting almost across with Pompeo on the far right.
I did notice on the North Korean side, I didn`t see anybody from the Korean military, the Korean people`s army. They`re very powerful but they don`t seem to be among the top people at least in this symbolic meeting.
And then I didn`t see Kim Kye Gwan, who`s been their nuclear negotiator for many years who has been involved in some of the negotiations, or at least I didn`t recognize him. So, that`s a sign that Kim Jong-un himself is the nuclear negotiator because he does know these issues very well.
What I am picking up, just from the visibility of the meeting, is that on the issues of normalization, liaison offices perhaps, intensive cultural relations, family reunification issues, issues relating to hot lines that that normalization process is going to come out well in these meetings. But I want to see some of the meet on the nuclear issue.
Are they going to denuclearize? Are there -- are we going to see a timeline and verification and unfettered access by inspectors? Are we going to see ways that the missiles are not pointed at our allies or to the United States? That they stop the development of new research and technology for those missiles and on nuclear weapons?
They have 60 nuclear weapons. This is what the Defense Intelligence Agency says, how many of those are going to be destroyed? I`ve seen an estimate that it`s going to take ten years.
So I think we got to see some of the nuclear results, but my sense is that maybe a lot of this, through the good work of Secretary of State Pompeo, I got to hand it to him, maybe a lot of these things have been precooked already in the meetings they`ve had at the DMZ, the technical meetings that have taken place.
WILLIAMS: Governor, one more question, and that is -- you and I both know, without nuclear weapons, they`re not at this table, none of this happens. So, what is the incentive to denuclearize?
RICHARDSON: Well, I think Kim Jong-un is going to want to keep some if he wants to stay in power. I think that is his leverage. That is what put him on the world stage.
Hopefully, he will recognize that maybe in exchange for those nuclear weapons, the West, the United States, South Korea, China, other countries will help him modernize his very, very poor country with infrastructure, with investments, with an energy grid which he doesn`t have. You know, a lot of people are starving there. Maybe he`s figured out he`s going to trade his nuclear weapons, or some of them, for economic prosperity, which is going to take a long time.
WILLIAMS: I know you`re --
RICHARDSON: But no, will he give up his weapons, all of them, denuclearized? I don`t think so. And even if he signs a paper, I think every agreement we`ve had has said denuclearization, that North Korean is going to do it, under Bush, Clinton, it hasn`t happened.
WILLIAMS: Keeping some could mean San Francisco and Seattle.
RICHARDSON: No, I think that -- that will be worked out. I think stopping the -- freezing that development, that technology, I think that -- it`s the nuclear weapons itself, the 60 that he has, the detonations that many of them are underground. They`re in sites that we don`t know where they are.
This is why inspections are critical. Verification. International Atomic Energy inspectors, American scientist inspectors, unfettered access.
Otherwise, this agreement is going to end up like the other ones.
MATTHEWS: Governor, it`s Chris. Let me ask you, I keep hearing one of the reasons he likes nuclear weapons is it protects the dynasty, protects him from a military coup? How does that work? How does the position by his country of nuclear weapons protect him from his generals and his enemies?
RICHARDSON: Well, you know, Chris, I have always felt that his generals, you know, generally, the military in countries like North Korea, dictatorships, are to the right of the leader. I have found a lot of these military leaders in North Korea to the left of the leader when we negotiated, for instance, on the remains of our soldiers. We brought seven back from the Bush administration in 2007.
They realize the danger of facing a powerful country like the United States. But, Chris, as the only politician here amongst all you distinguished scholars and journalists, I can tell you, Kim Jong-un`s number one objective, maybe he brought it up in the meeting with the president was, don`t talk about regime change. I want to stay in power and I want an assurance that you`re not going to mess with me, that you`re not going to try to knock me off. I don`t think he said that.
But I think that`s his number one objective. Yes, he wants a peace treaty. Yes, he wants sanctions off. But I think more than anything when you look at him and the way he`s treated members of his family and other members of the regime that he thought were a threat, you know, he is annihilated them. That this is his paramount objective. And I think we should give it to him early on. I would hold back on a peace treaty. Wait to see how they perform. Wait to see what they do, because, you know, they never say no. They never say yes. They never give you an answer. This is why you have to verify extensively whatever is agreed to.
WILLIAMS: And that is why we had you on and wanted to toss a few questions your way, former congressman, ambassador, governor and cabinet secretary Bill Richardson of New Mexico, temporarily with us tonight from Boston.
Governor, thank you very much.
RICHARDSON: Thank you.
MADDOW: I also want to bring into the conversation, speaking of expertise, Ambassador Wendy Sherman.
Wendy Sherman was an undersecretary of state for political affairs in the year 2000 when Madeleine Albright became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit North Korea. Wendy Sherman was there on that trip. She is also a former policy coordinator on North Korea in the Clinton administration.
Ambassador, thank you very much for being with us tonight. It`s a privilege to have you here.
WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, you have been through the proverbial wars when it comes to negotiating with North Korea, lots of different instances. And you have seen lots of different ways that North Korea has cheated and reneg and talked their way of things that they previously talked their way into. Do you think that the approach that you have seen tonight from the President and this administration reflects those lessons learned?
SHERMAN: Rachel, I was actually someone who supported this meeting because in North Korean culture, at least, and I think Sue would agree with this and Victor, that only leaders make decisions because in North Korea, quite frankly, he is the only one that makes decisions.
Yes, he has to worry about the military as governor Richardson just said, but nonetheless, there isn`t a free press, there isn`t a, we, the people, there`s no one really to constrain him, except from his perspective the United States of America. So I agree it`s all about regime security.
And in a very strange way, the interests of Donald Trump and the interests of Kim Jong-un may be aligned. Kim Jong-un wants to stay in power. He is a young man. In November he really completed his arsenal. He got his nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. In December he took a trip up Mount Pactu, which is very much in the North Korean culture, a sacred place. He got to the top of the mountain. He did get there in his dress shoes so one wonders a bit in December. But that said, it was very symbolic to the North Korean people that he was about to begin a great new adventure on their behalf. And he has been preparing his people there`s going to be an opening to America. So he wants to stay in power.
And as you all have discussed on the panel tonight, Donald Trump wants to stay in power. He wants to get through the 2018 midterms in a better way than anticipated and he wants to be reelected in 2020.
Whether is this alignment of interest of these two leaders who like surprises, like to act on instincts, at least President Trump does, I think Kim Jong-un came with a very prepared script, the President not so much, but nonetheless, there may be an alignment of interests here that at least gets us a little bit further than we have gone in the past.
But I agree with all the panelists tonight, getting to complete denuclearization that can be verified, permanent and irreversible, is a very, very tough wrong and it will take a very long negotiation.
Last point, Rachel, the Iran negotiation which I was proud to be part of took years. The Europeans began before the Americans got involved. It was really got very serious when Rouhani became president from 2013 to 2015. It took two years to write those 110 pages after many years of failed attempts. So interests have to align. You have to have the right moment and you have the right team ready to do it. I haven`t seen that team yet. I hope it exists in the wings.
MADDOW: Ambassador, I`m struck by what you said about how Kim Jong-un has assembled his arsenal. Within the past year we have seen more than 20 missile tests, the way he celebrated fourth of July, American independence day last year was with an intercontinental ballistic missile, which we conceivably reached the (INAUDIBLE), United States, the sixth and most recent nuclear test in North Korea appears to have been a hydrogen bomb, which is a different order of magnitude literally than the other types of nuclear weapons that he had previously detonated.
After he invited President Trump to this summit in March, in April, Kim Jong-un said he no longer needed to do any missile testing or nuclear testing. Basically implying that it was done. They put together what they need and so they could give up testing for now because they didn`t need to do it anymore. Is that a true statement? Is that something that we should see as spin? Or was he accurately representing his country`s weapons achievement at that point?
SHERMAN: I think he was letting us know that he felt he had reached this achievement. For him to really perfect all of his weapons and he needs to deliver them, he would probably need to do more testing and we are not sure that they have been able to marry a small war head on top of those missiles and make sure they have the guidance system for re-entry and all the other pieces that you need to have a useable weapons.
But that said, he was really increasing the narrative he has with his people. That he has now gotten them in a powerful and strong place, where the U.S. cannot assail them, the U.S. cannot do them in. And so, now he is ready to open his country a bit to yes, get economic advantage. He has already started some free market enterprises in North Korea. Quite frankly, it was the only way that they could move forward and he came to understand that. He is now gone to China, which has for a long time tried to get North Korean to engage in the economic reforms done in China.
So he is really saying to us, to the world, and we have seen how he has had this diplomatic entree all over the world now. And I think Putin will be next on the agenda to say we are at a different point in our history. I`m going to make a difference. But that doesn`t mean he is ready to give up his nuclear weapons.
(INAUDIBLE), when he had the sunshine policy, during the time of President Clinton and Secretary Albright`s trip to North Korea, he believed the sunshine policy would mean they crack the door a little bit and then they could go all the way through open the door and change things. It didn`t work out on the end. There was a change in administration in our country and a change of administration in their country. And continuity in foreign policy isn`t just a problem in the United States. It`s a problem in North Korea. And certainly a problem in South Korea as well.
MADDOW: Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former undersecretary of state for political affairs. Longtime diplomat and ambassador involved in these matters. Thank you for being with us tonight.
SHERMAN: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: To Nicole Wallace, the question becomes, we just heard from two very smart veterans of the diplomacy trade, among other things, a bunch of college degrees between the last two guests. That`s the best they can get us on denuclearization?
WALLACE: Yes. I have been hearing from folks who are fixated on that image and point out that Pompeo is Trump`s second secretary of state, Bolton is his second national security advisor -- sorry, but third. And Kelly is secretary of staff. And there`s a lot of reporting from the weekend in "the New York Times" and the Post about how that Trump is finally a free range President. You know, he is finally ready to roll as he wants.
It`s important to point out that at least in Pompeo and Bolton`s foreign policy pedigree this is not what they have ever agreed in before. John Bolton, I think someone described him before as a hawk. He wouldn`t be -- that doesn`t mean he is pro-war, but his foreign policy would have had him seek some preconditions. And I think Trump`s answer to that would be three detainees were released. He would have wanted more.
Pompeo who is credited by people, from Democratic and Republican administration intelligence circles, for being the only reason that this meeting is happening. That trip that he took. The President leaked inadvertently. But that trip is the only reason (INAUDIBLE).
Pompeo also, someone very skeptical of having a high level meeting like this, President to President, without really any preconditions having been met. But it says something about this moment in Trump`s presidency. He is truly a free-range, you know, commander-in-chief who is carrying out the foreign policy that he always wanted to do.
I heard from two friends, more involved in sort of his political side of his life, and this was everything to him. This was a meeting he relished having. This is a stage and a kind of media attention. They call him the sun king. He loves the spotlight. And this is a meeting -- this was exactly what he wanted when he thought that winning meant he got to play President.
O`DONNELL: And let`s not leave the imagery of the meeting in that room without noting that if President Obama entered that room with those people under exactly the same terms, every Republican who is in that room right now, including Donald Trump, would be attacking President Obama for even having this meeting.
TERRY: Brian, here`s the thing. How do we guarantee regime security for North Korea? We are talking about we need to guarantee their regime security? How do we do that? We have already gave them within security guarantee in previous agreement in 2005. We gave them statements we are not going to attack you conventionally or with nuclear weapons. We are not looking for regime change. It`s already there.
So this is why it goes back to what do they want? What do we have to do to guarantee their regime? Is it a peace treaty? Is it a pull out the troops? It has to be something fundamentally more. Because why would they believe us with another statement or another piece of paper?
O`DONNELL: Well, Kim guarantees his regime by killing people. And so if Donald Trump is going to say to him, I will guarantee that you will be able to hold on to power for what, life? Because that term it was. That means you are going to have to tell us, who are you willing to kill? Who are you willing to kill to keep Kim in power?
WILLIAMS: Well, that would be different. In terms of what we`re used to here.
To Lawrence`s point, this is from Mike Murphy, often a guest on our broadcast. Huge long wished for and legitimizing win for the North Korean regime, and we got nothing for it. No concessions to earn a bilateral summit. If Obama had done this, GOP heads would have exploded. Now we will see what we get for this big kiss to a mini Satan. Long time GOP campaign aide, mike Murphy.
A break for our coverage. We are still waiting and watching for live developments. We will come out of the commercial if we them, otherwise, we hope to see you on the side.
WILLIAMS: We are back. That is indeed the event we`re covering, this nuclear summit between the leaders of the United States and North Korea. There has been no activity with the camera crews who were allowed to go in at specific times. The two leaders are meeting with their various teams. We have nothing new to report. Except a new member of our extended on air family has joined us in our New York studios. He happens Pulitzer-Prize winning veteran columnist for "the Washington Post," Eugene Robinson.
Eugene, I`m so curious to get your take on the coverage you have been watching.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, you know, I have been trying to kind of strip away the Trumpness and Kiminess of --
WILLIAMS: Good luck with that.
ROBINSON: No, I know. I know. It is there. But inside of all that, there`s an event. I mean, this is a major change in a crucial relationship in the world. A conflict that had never ended, still has not ended, perhaps a dangerous nuclear flash point with North Korea having achieved nuclear weapons and the missiles potentially to deliver them.
And when Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un came out and had that handshake and then the subsequent meetings we have seen with all those photo ops, a lot of photo ops. You know, I think that`s the deal. That`s the big deal of this summit. Potentially bigger than the details of what will come out. And it will not be full denuclearization.
I understand the argument that the United States has given North Korea a lot without getting anything in return, but as I have argued in a column recently, not talking to North Korea really wasn`t working very well. That had allowed North Korea to develop a very sophisticated, more sophisticated than we suspected, nuclear program, amass an arsenal of nuclear weapons and develop ballistic missiles that could reach the continental United States potentially. So that wasn`t working.
This seems to me a change worth trying because I don`t think it can do a lot worse than the prior policy. Can this administration with its dysfunction bring home -- bring this to a conclusion that is happier than what we have now? I`m not at all sure. But I think it`s a good step. I think it`s a good thing this has happened.
WILLIAMS: Chris Matthews, this has been a Trump hobby horse. He wants credit for doing something about the problem. In his view, it had to be done, he had to step in, people had been kicking the can down the road. Previous Presidents these past few decades would have you know it has taken hard work to remain where we are today and a peaceful Korean peninsula.
MATTHEWS: Well, people do what they can do. And Trump didn`t get to the presidency by doing his homework. He didn`t have a lot of research and due diligence. He popped off. And I think he likes the show.
As I said, you know, a friend of mine once said that everybody gets a job and everybody takes themselves and puts them in the job. For some people like Jimmy Carter, he is an engineer. He turns the presidency into an engineering job. He has got all this checklist and all these ways of doing things. Fifty questions on urban policy.
This president, Ronald Reagan turned it into a TV history show. This guy turns it into a reality show. Here we are, all of us joining here, watching an hour or two of television that is the show (INAUDIBLE). This is it. This is it. This meeting is a reality event, a faux event if you will, like a press conference, and he is the master of it. Let me help you with that. Let me have. We were talking about a while ago, the physical way of escorting Kim into the room with him, holding his arm.
WILLIAMS: Almost Macron levels of touching.
MATTHEWS: You pointed out palpability. And I think that -- I think this is -- but will it lead to an inflection point in history. Will this be marked, this day, June 12th, 2018, as the end of the nuclear threat from the North Asia?
And I tell you, there is one -- there is two or three places in the world we worry about right now. We worry about Iran. We worry I guess, potentially Pakistan, and this country. And I think if this does stop this danger, it will start here. He will get credit for it, but, you know, he always shoots the moon, he always does the opposite of everyone else. And this time, is something that -- and also, is it only right wingers who are allowed to do this stuff? Is it only Nixon that can go to China?
WALLACE: Why are you looking at me?
MATTHEWS: No. Maybe hawks --
WALLACE: It already is an inflection point because he left Canada with, you know, a big up yours, and landed in Singapore and said it`s an honor to meet you. The inflection point has come and gone.
WALLACE: And he`s now carried about as we talked about -- it felt like seven hours ago. It`s probably only two. He started carrying out a foreign policy that is precisely what Vladimir Putin would like it to be. The inflection point has come and gone. I think the question is do we achieve denuclearization. And I think people that know a lot more than I do think that --
WALLACE: Right. We either end up on the path toward --
MATTHEWS: But are we going to remember Quebec?
WALLACE: Are we going to remember that --?
MATTHEWS: Are we going to remember Quebec or remember Singapore?
WALLACE: I mean, he loved to going to Europe twice without a (INAUDIBLE) NATO. He loves being in Canada and sticking his finger in the eye -- I mean the inflection point has come and gone. He distrusts our allies and he loves dictators.
ROBINSON: But complete denuclearization of the Korea ns peninsula is not the only potential outcome that changes the situation. One other outcome that changes the situation is that in some way, the United States and the rest of the world, which has tolerated a nuclear North Korea for a decade, continues to tolerate a nuclear North Korea with tension lessened, with less of a threat that something sparks into a conflagration.
I think even if there is a negotiation whose putative end is denuclearization, for many years -- for years there`s going to be the reality of North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. They are just going to be there. So potentially that handshake and the photo ops made living with that condition until whatever point -- maybe he gets rid of them eventually, but made that period of living with that threat less dangerous than it was before.
MADDOW: Let`s bring into the conversation an additional expert who we want to add to our ranks. Ian Bremmer is the founder of the Political Risk Consultants Eurasia group.
Mr. Bremmer, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
Nicolle Wallace is arguing that an important inflection point has already been reached, which is the just the photo opportunity, just the pictures of bringing the dictator of this pariah state, which has wanted a meeting with the U.S. President for decades, bringing that dictator into a one-on-one, equal relationship with the U.S. President, with this sit-down meeting. That is the threshold that has already been reached regardless of what is agreed in terms of nuclear weapons on the peninsula. What`s your view of the historic significance that we`ve seen thus far?
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: I think Trump has done an extraordinary amount of lifting to get to this point. The threats of preemptive military strikes, the willingness to tie cooperation with the U.S. on tightening sanctions against North Korea in return for having a more constructive economic relationship with the Chinese.
That did lead the Chinese to take the North Korea much more serious will the United States and it brought the North Koreans to the table. It wouldn`t happen if it was to Trump. It didn`t happen under Bush, didn`t happen in Obama, didn`t happen under Clinton. That`s a big deal.
MADDOW: Did the North Koreans -- was there any question that they would come to the table, though? I mean, it wasn`t the issue about whether the American President would come to the table?
BREMMER: I`m not talking the United States. I`m talking come to the table generally.
You got to keep in mind, before Trump talked about fire and fury, before Trump pushed the Chinese hard, Kim Jong-un had not meet with any foreign leaders except Dennis Rodman, right. Si, I mean, we are talking now. Now you have had two summit meetings with the South Korean President. You`ve had two meetings with Xi Jinping. You`ve had the Russian foreign minister come to Pyongyang. And now you have this meeting with Donald Trump.
Now, there`s no question from the perspective of making history, first American President to have the meeting, from the perspective of the media, this is extraordinary coverage. But if you ask me, what matters more, it`s the fact that the Chinese are engaging again and they are responsible for the vast majority of the North Korean economy. And over time, I think it`s very -- I don`t believe, and I think no one on the panel believes that we are going to reach CVID in terms of denuclearization from North Korea. They are going to give up all of their nukes.
I think over time the United States is going to become a more marginal player like it is in Syria, where the Russians and the Iranians, the players in the region with the real equities, the cash, the military engagement, they are the ones that matter the most. Over time that will be the case. The United States will not be the most important player in North Korea.
But for right now, this is Trump`s moment, and we will see how much is actually accomplished as a consequence. But the big deal here is that we have taken the risk factor away from the idea of a military conflict between the U.S. and North Korea and the actors in the region who weren`t engaged before now are. And I think that`s actually most of what`s happening around North Korea right now is not emanating from Donald Trump or Washington anymore. It`s now between the North Koreans and the South Koreans, the North Koreans and China. That`s the way it`s been for most of history. That`s the way it`s returned.
MADDOW: Ian Bremmer, founder of the political risk consultancy, the Eurasia Group. Thank you for being with us tonight. Appreciate having you here.
It is, you know, remarkable the transformation that he is talking about there. And we talked about this at the very beginning of our broadcast tonight that before -- not only before this year, but before this spring, Kim Jong-un, the dictator of North Korea, had never, ever met with the head of another country. Now, because of this opening that the American President has given him, he`s met with the leader of South Korea. He`s met with the leader of China twice. He has met with the prime minister of Singapore. He is now tonight meeting currently with the President of the United States. We expect that the President of Russia is going to be next. What has he done to achieve.
WALLACE: Trump invited him in to the White House is this goes well.
WILLIAMS: And very notably he has left his country, which is very rare.
MADDOW: He left his countries with those. The first time he has done as head of country, what as he done to earn that court of internal acceptance and that treatment as a legitimate leader is the first time he`s done that as head of country? What has he done to earn that sort of international acceptance and that treatment as a legitimate leader, as the dictator of the most totalitarian regime on earth? He`s done nothing --
ROBINSON: Nuclear Missile.
MADDOW: Well, yes. That`s what made him a pariah. What brought him into -- he was not having these meetings before Donald Trump started calling.
ROBINSON: Big nuclear weapons. Seriously.
WALLACE: A big button.
MADDOW: You start developing nuclear weapons and usually you get isolated. In this case, what happened to turn that around was we got a new President. They didn`t change anything.
WILLIAMS: Our coverage continues after a break. Stay with us.
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