President Trump faces backlash over summit

Otto Warmbier's parents are angered at the president's defense of Kim Jong Un, saying, "Kim and his evil regime" are responsible for their son's death.
5:40 | 03/02/19

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Transcript for President Trump faces backlash over summit
president trump facing backlash over his comments about north Korean leader Kim Jong-un as well as the top level security clearance for son-in-law Jared Kushner. ABC's white house correspondent Tara Palmeri is right there at the white house with how the president is responding to both of them. Tara, good morning. Reporter: Good morning, Dan. President trump left Vietnam without a deal, and now he's facing anger at home over his over-the-top attempt to create a personal relationship with Kim Jong-un giving him the pass on the death of an American hostage. Overnight president trump walking back his stunning defense of Kim Jong-un after accepting that the north Korean dictator didn't know about the torture and imprisonment of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier. I don't believe that he would have allowed that to happen. He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word. He felt very badly but he knew the case very well but knew it later. Reporter: Accused of stealing a political poster, Warmbier was imprisoned for 18 months and died shortly after returning to the news a coma. I have made the worst mistake of my life, but please act to save me. Reporter: His parents speaking out in a statement saying, quote, we have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. No excuses or lavish praise can change that. The president reversing his tone but still not calling Kim out by name tweeting, I never like being misinterpreted but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto's mistreatment and death. Just last year trump winning a standing ovation for denouncing Warmbier's brutal treatment at the state of the union attended by his tearful parents. You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world and your strength truly inspires us all. Reporter: Meanwhile, president trump facing fire on another front. House Democrats demanding that the white house turn over memos related to Jared Kushner's top security clearance. The white house facing a Monday deadline after "The New York Times" reported that trump ordered white house chief of staff John Kelly to give his son-in-law the clearance despite the objections of the CIA and white house counsel, something his daughter ivanka denied. There are a lot of people that questioned whether you were given special treatment by the president overriding other officials. Absolutely not. Can you speak to that? The president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance, zero. Reporter: The white house refuses to confirm or deny if Kushner got special treatment but white house counselor kellyanne Conway said that if the president made that order, it was within his right to do Dan. Tara. Thank you. Let's bring in ABC news chief political analyst Matthew dowd who joins us from Boston this morning. Matt, let me start with north Korea. We, of course, cannot overlook the overwhelming pain that the family of Otto Warmbier has to be feeling. This whole situation must be wrenching for them, but I just wonder for the sake of argument is it also worth looking at this from another perspective? Could trump make the case that this is all about diplomacy and he's just trying to avoid nuclear war? Well, Dan, it's a unique approach. One that we've seen no president take where you basically ignore any human rights violations and in this case a specific horrible thing that happened to Otto Warmbier and then obviously affecting his family. I think the problem is, he's gone from calling the head of North Korea rocket man and saying he's going to release fire and fury and now talking about their exchanging love letters and at some point we have to ask ourselves, does not saying anything about Vladimir Putin, does not saying anything about the head of North Korea, does not saying anything about the head of the Philippines, does not saying anything about the crown prince, does it really serve the country's interest of standing on principles of human rights, but the president has an incredibly unique approach to how he's conducting diplomacy. Yeah, and so much at stake here, especially we cannot forget about this family in pain. So, let me just switch to a more domestic issue here and we've just come through this week that was dominated by the Michael Cohen testimony, and now we're learning there may very well be more hearings to come. Do you think any of this is going to move the needle with trump's base, or are opinions basically set in stone? Well, you know, it's Theodore Geisel, Dr. Seuss' birthday today and so I'm reminded what was said in "The cat in the hat." The mess is so big, the mess is so deep and so tall, so deep and so tall there's no way to pick it up, no way at all. I think the president is now being faced of being accused in what happened in the testimony of seven or eight felonies, bank fraud, tax fraud, insurance fraud, wire fraud, all sorts of things that were laid out in that, and I think this is going to go on. I don't think it's going to affect his base so, the third of the country that stands by him but you have to fundamentally ask, the president has to move the majority of the country that does not feel he's honest and does not approve of him, and every time these things happen, it solidifies the majority of the country against him so, yes, his base will stay with him, but his base is only a third of the country. He has to figure out a way to move the majority of the country to better support him. Otherwise, he's in a difficult situation heading into a re-election year. It's a difficult situation for America with just hardening opinions on both sides of this seemingly intractable divide. Matthew dowd, we really appreciate your analysis and cultural references on a Saturday morning. Thank you. Dr. Seuss this time. Didn't see that coming. The wide is ranking. Yes, it is. From deuce bigalow to Dr. Seuss. Moving along, son-in-law terrifying moments in ft.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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