'This Week' Transcript 4-29-18: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Rep. Adam Schiff
ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS starts right now.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll tell you one thing, we're not playing games.
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TRUMP: I think Mike Pompeo is extraordinary.
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KARL: His very first interview as America's top diplomat.
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MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I do look forward to getting to work in Washington.
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KARL: And his first interview since his secret meeting with North Korea's dictator.
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POMPEO: I was there on a mission.
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KARL: What did Mike Pompeo say to Kim Jong-un in their face-to-face meeting? And as North Korea comes to the table, can someone the president has called a "madman" be trusted?
Plus, will Pompeo convince the president not to tear up the Iran deal? Those questions and more for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an ABC News exclusive. And live here in the studio, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee responds.
Plus, America divided.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like we are two separate countries.
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ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK. Here now, chief White House correspondent, Jonathan Karl.
KARL: Good morning and thank you for joining us this Sunday. In Michigan last night, President Trump was unfiltered and unrestrained, capping off a turbulent week of nomination drama, legal twists, and foreign dignitaries at the White House. But it was the meeting between North and South Korea's leaders that captured the world's attention: North Korea's Kim Jong-un, and South Korea's President Moon taking the first steps on what may be an historic journey.
You see Kim here shaking hands with the South Korean leader, crossing into South Korean soil, and the two of them crossing back to North Korea hand-in-hand. A few small steps, a giant symbolic gesture. Both leaders pledged to formally end the Korean War, sealing their joint declaration with a hug, and then appearing together in front of the press.
President Trump hailed the meeting as a major breakthrough that he made possible. He is also touting Mike Pompeo's secret meeting with Kim Jong-un. The White House released these photos of that meeting to pave the way for the upcoming summit between Kim and President Trump.
There are a lot of questions about that meeting. The biggest, will it lead to the kind of breakthrough that has eluded President Trump's predecessors? Late yesterday we talked to Mike Pompeo in his first interview as secretary of state. He had just arrived in Saudi Arabia.
KARL: Secretary Pompeo, thank you for joining us on your very first trip as secretary of state.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you, Jonathan. It is great to be with you.
KARL: So, I want to start with those incredible images that we saw of Kim Jong-un stepping into South Korea for the first time we have ever seen a North Korean dictator do that. How big, how significant was that moment?
POMPEO: Yeah, Jonathan, I think it's a big deal. It is important, every step along the way matters. The objective remains the same: complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization. That has been the administration's goal. President Trump has put economic pressure on the North Koreans and it appears to have given us an opening, this real opportunity for something that would be transformative for the world if we can achieve it.
KARL: And let's look at those more remarkable images of your meeting with Kim Jong-un. The two of you just standing there side-by-side. What was going through your mind at that moment?
POMPEO: I was on a mission, Jonathan. I had a mission to begin to lay the groundwork for President Trump's meeting with Kim Jong-un. We wanted to make sure we understood that the North Koreans, Kim Jong-un, was prepared to talk about things that matter most, to give us a grounds, a basis to have that meeting between the president and the chairman. I was very focused on that in that moment.
KARL: The president said that the meeting -- the meeting between the two of you -- was entirely unplanned and it lasted for more than an hour. How did it come about?
POMPEO: Well, I was there on a mission. I was aiming to achieve the goals that the president set forward to me, it became clear that I was going to get the chance to meet with Kim Jong-un to discuss some of the details, but most importantly to take a read on whether there was an opportunity here for our two countries to achieve this. And when I came back, I reported to the president the discussion. It was a productive one. There remains a great deal of work to do. But we at least have the opportunity here to do something that’s incredibly important.
KARL: As the CIA director, you obviously spent a lot of time in the CIA, spent years, resources on trying to read the North Korean leadership, trying to understand Kim Jong-un. What did you come away learning about him in that meeting?
POMPEO: Well, anytime you get a chance to meet face-to-face with someone, you get a better read about what they’re thinking, whether they’re really prepared to do something that is historic and different. And we have got a long history of negotiating with North Korea. Repeatedly, they have taken actions only to find that those promises proved false or unworthy or they were incapable of achieving them.
My goal was to try and identify if there was a real opportunity there. I believe there is. Who knows how the ultimate discussions will go. There is a lot of work left to do, but I am very hopeful that the conditions that have been set by President Trump give us this chance.
KARL: The president said you have good relationship with Kim Jong-un after this. A good relationship. Do you?
POMPEO: We had a good conversation. We talked about serious matters. He was very well prepared. I hope I matched that. We had an extensive conversation on the hardest issues that face our two countries. I had a clear mission statement from President Trump. When I left there, Kim Jong-un understood the mission exactly as I’ve described it today. And he agreed that he was prepared to talk about that and to lay out a map that would help us achieve that objective. Only time could tell if we can get that done.
KARL: So, you went down there to set up this summit meeting between Kim Jong-un and the president or take steps toward doing that. What do you -- looking at this, what is your assessment? What is the best plausible outcome that we can see after this first meeting of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un?
POMPEO: Well, we hope a number of things could be achieved. I talked about getting the release of the American detainees. And then we talked a great deal about what it might look like, what this complete, verifiable, irreversible mechanism might look like. And so, when the two leaders, the only people that can make those decisions, will be in a room together, they can set the course, they can chart the outcome. They can then direct the teams to go deliver that outcome. And the best outcome would be that, that the two agree that they’re going to get there and charter their teams to go make that happen.
KARL: So, I just want to play for you something that the national security adviser John Bolton said shortly before he came into the administration but right after this planned meeting was announced. This is what he said about negotiating with the North Koreans.
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JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: There is an old purpose joke here. Question: How do you know that the North Korean regime is lying? Answer: Their lips are moving.
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KARL: So, that was obviously before John Bolton became national security adviser. He is now working on this meeting. But given all of the broken promises on the nuclear issue that we have seen under President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, three different North Korean leaders now, can you really trust anything that comes out of a meeting with Kim Jong-un?
POMPEO: Jonathan, this administration has its eyes wide open. We know the history. We know the risks. We’re going to be very different. We’re going to negotiate in a different way than has been done before. We’re going to require those steps – we use the word irreversible with great intention. We’re going to require those steps that demonstrate that denuclearization is going to be achieved. We’re not going to take promises. We’re not going to take words. We’re going to look for actions and deeds. And until such time, the president has made it incredibly clear we will keep the pressure campaign in place until we achieve that. That’s different. And so in each case, both countries will have to do more than words, will have to actually deliver an outcome that is the one that Kim Jong-un and I had the chance to talk about at the direction of the president.
KARL: So, you looked into his eyes, you spent an hour with him, you said it was a good conversation. The president said it was a good relationship that was developed. The president also called him a madman. And the president is not alone in calling Kim Jong-un a madman. How do you build a relationship with somebody who is seen as a madman?
POMPEO: You know, I’m not one to do much about naval gazing or eye staring. I’m looking for actions. And that’s what President Trump is asking for, too. We have built a coalition -- a diplomatic coalition has come together to put pressure on Kim Jong-un. President Trump and that pressure campaign are the reasons Kim Jong-un want this meeting. It’s the objective of our administration to achieve the outcome. That -- that’s what we’ll be looking for between the president and Kim Jong-un.
KARL: Did you think he's really had a change of heart on this? I mean, if you look at Kim Jong-un this is somebody who assassinated his uncle right after coming into power, poisoned his half-brother, did more to advance North Korea's nuclear facilities, its missile capabilities than his father, did more to advance the military than his grandfather. Do you really think that he has had a change of heart on this and he is ready to give up the pride of that country right now: its nuclear program?
POMPEO: Kim Jong-un’s going to have to make a decision. He’s going to have to make a big decision. Does he want the pressure campaign to continue? Does he want President Trump to continue to place him in the location that he finds himself today? Or is he looking for something big and bold and different, something that hasn’t happened before? I don't know which way it will go. As the president has said, only time will tell. But we have a mission set, we have an obligation to engage in diplomatic discourse to try and find a peaceful solution so that Americans aren’t held at risk by Kim Jong-un and his nuclear arsenal. That’s the mission. That’s the goal. Only time will tell if we’re going to be able to achieve it.
KARL: And you have been clear this is complete irreversible dismantlement of their nuclear programs. Get rid of the nukes, get rid of the capabilities. Is he going to get anything in return before he does that? Is there any lifting, any easing of sanctions, any reward given before the total irreversible dismantling of that nuclear program?
POMPEO: Jonathan, the administration’s been very clear. We’ll see how the negotiations proceed, but we’re going to do it in a fundamentally different way than the previous efforts to persuade the North Koreans to get rid of their nuclear weapons program. We have -- we have our eyes wide open, Jonathan.
KARL: But nothing before it is done? No partial steps?
POMPEO: Jonathan, we have our eyes wide open.
KARL: You were CIA director for 15 months. You had a sense of -- you've seen all of the intelligence on this. You've seen the assessments. Are you confident that we truly know the extent of the North Korean nuclear program? Do we know where his bombs are? Do we know where all of his nuclear facilities are at this point?
POMPEO: Jonathan, I’m not going to go into any detail on that.
KARL: Well, I am just asking if you are confident in the assessment. I am asking you what the assessment is. Do you believe -- because he has hidden nuclear capabilities in the past...
POMPEO: Jonathan, Jonathan, I’m not going to -- I’m not going to talk about intelligence matters on the show this morning. I apologize for that. I just -- you do understand that I simply can't do that.
KARL: So, If diplomacy fails on this, is there a military option? Is there a realistic military option for getting rid of that nuclear program?
POMPEO: The president has been very clear, Jonathan. We’re not going to allow Kim Jong-un to continue to threaten America. We’re not going to let him develop a program such that Americans are held at risk.
KARL: I want to play something that you said in July at the aspen
POMPEO: Jonathan I’m sorry -- Jonathan I’m sorry -- I’m going to have to apologize -- I’m going to have to run.
KARL: Can I just ask one more question before we head out here?
KARL: I want to play something that you said at the aspen forum in July.
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POMPEO: The Korean people I am sure are lovely people and would love to see him go as well. As you might know, they don't live a very good life there.
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KARL: So, that was in July. Now, since then, you have been to North Korea. You have met directly with Kim Jong-un. Do you still think that the people there in North Korea would like to see him go?
POMPEO: Jonathan, what I said that evening I still believe. The people in North Korea live in very difficult conditions. I believe that one of the reasons that Kim Jong-un is engaged in this conversation is that the pressure campaign that has been applied by President Trump, and indeed by the world, has put them in an even more tenuous, more difficult position. And so I’m -- I’m optimistic. We will work hard to see if we can find a solution so that the North Korea people can in fact live a better life.
KARL: Our thanks to Secretary Pompeo who spoke to us from Saudi Arabia.
So let’s bring in Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Schiff, you heard the Secretary say that he thinks there is a real opportunity here, that they’re going into this with eyes open but they think that Kim Jong-un is serious. Serious about giving up his nukes potentially.
Do you think that’s right?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We don’t know. Look, I think it’s very positive that we have this now dramatic step towards conciliation by Kim Jong-un. The history, though, is not encouraging. We see the North Koreans vacillate between confrontation and conciliation. They were in a strongly confrontational phase up until now.
But look, we have to press this opportunity, we have to test it. It would be irresponsible not to. And so we have to hope that this is a change of course but I think we need to be mindful of their record.
KARL: It’s clearly an opportunity. I mean, we’re already seeing things we’ve never seen before. Kim Jong-un going in to South Korea, appearing before the -- the press -- this is -- we’re already seeing things. I want to play what President Trump had to say just last night about all this.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They were saying what do you think President Trump had to do with it? I’ll tell you what. Like, how about everything?
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KARL: OK, so I don’t imagine you agree that he has everything to do with this, but doesn’t the president deserve credit for -- at least partial credit for what we’re seeing unfold on the Korean Peninsula?
SCHIFF: Jon, I think it’s more than fair to say that the combination of the president’s unpredictability and indeed, his bellicosity had something to do with the North Koreans deciding to come to the table. But before the president takes too much credit or hangs out the mission accomplished banner, he needs to realize that we may go into a confrontational phase and he may not want the full blame if things go south.
So we have to be a little circumspect about that. But most important for this president is when things do become confrontational, as is likely to happen, it’s going to be very important that we are lashed up with our allies, South Korea and Japan. Otherwise, North Korea will pick us apart. And this president isn’t particularly good about lashing up with our allies.
And I’ll also (ph) mention you didn’t get into the Iran agreement with the Secretary, but if we walk away from that Iran deal, it will not only make it much more difficult to get to yes with the North Koreans but it will also breed a lot of distrust with a our South Korean allies about whether they can rely on us --
KARL: Although, I -- I have to (ph) press you on that, because you’ve made this point for months and other Democrats have, saying that the president’s threats to -- to walk away from the Iran agreement, to rip it up were -- were -- were going to do many effort (ph) to get negotiations with the North Koreans. It hasn’t been true. I mean, this has been two separate tracks, hasn’t it?
I mean the president has not backed away at all from his threats on the Iran deal and yet this -- this effort with North Korea has moved forward faster than most people thought it would.
SCHIFF: Well, certainly the North Koreans have done an about-face recently. But if we drop out of the Iran agreement, if we renege on the Iran deal when the Iranians are complying, it is, I think, dangerously naïve to think that this is not going to influence whether the North Koreans we can be trusted and what’s more, whether the rest of the world will have confidence that the U.S. keeps its word.
IF people don’t believe we keep our word, then how are they going to follow our lead? They’re not. So I don’t think you can divorce the two.
KARL: So we had a readout overnight from the South Koreans about the meeting between Moon and Kim. And according to that readout, North Korea is now of course vowing to shut down their nuclear test facility but also to allow journalists to come in to witness firsthand, to -- to view what -- what the facility is and what’s going to be destroyed.
How confident are you -- I want to ask you the same question I asked Secretary Pompeo that he wouldn’t answer. Do -- do we have a good handle -- does our intelligence community have a good handle on exactly the extent of those nuclear programs?
SCHIFF: You know, North Korea is very opaque. They’re a difficult intelligence target. Iran has been, too. So I think we need to be circumspect about whether we can pinpoint everything. And of course when we thought we knew what we did about Iraq we were wrong.
So it is, I think, prudent for us to into this with some skepticism about our own capabilities but also, that means we have to insist upon a rigorous inspection regime in North Korea, something that’s going to be a difficult ask with the North Koreans. They’re not going to want us roaming about North Korea.
If the administration is serious about insisting in North Korea on what they say is a weakness of the Iran agreement that we can’t go anywhere anytime we want, into any Iranian military facility, they’re going to have a hard time persuading the North Koreans to do it. But we are going to have to verify any agreement with North Korea because they have a history of cheating.
KARL: The South Koreans also put out a -- what they say is a quote from Kim Jong-un during this -- this meeting. Want to put it up on the screen. He said if we meet often and build trust with the United States and if an end to the war and non-aggression are promised, why would we live in difficulty with nuclear weapons?
This seems to be the first direct acknowledgment from the North Koreans that they are actually willing to give up their nuclear weapons and providing the reasons why they would be willing. Do you -- do you believe that?
SCHIFF: I don’t know. Now, they’ve talked about denuclearization in the past. A lot of what they are agreeing to now they have agreed to in the past. And as it has turned out, they have something very different in mind when they talk about denuclearization.
Yes, if the U.S. gives up their nukes, we’ll give up ours, if the U.S. leaves the Korean Peninsula, then we can talk. If, you know, they give us all kinds of economic relief before we’re asked to do much, that sounds great.
So look, this is an important opportunity, and we ought to seize it, we ought to try to make it successful, but we need to go in with our eyes wide open. I -- I think the secretary realizes that, I think that’s what he was saying this morning, but we shouldn’t miss this chance to test the North Koreans.
Is this something new or is this simply Kim Jong-un as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, who is in the phase right now of conciliation.
KARL: So right now, there is an opportunity to test, and I remember well when President Obama had his first meeting with President Elect Trump, and he said that the biggest challenge in the new president’s agenda was going to be North Korea.
And it looks -- I mean it looked very dark, and now there is -- there is an opportunity.
SCHIFF: There is more than a ray of light here, and let’s just hope that we can maximize the chance for success there, and let’s not breed another nuclear problem with Iran at the same time.
KARL: OK, before you go, radically different subject. I want to ask you about Ronny Jackson, confirmation while (ph) he drops out, I know that’s a Senate issue, not a House issue.
But were you uncomfortable to see the kind of anonymous accusations that were thrown at Ronny Jackson, somebody who had served as President Obama’s doctor for eight years, had a sterling reputation, you know, in -- in -- in -- among many in the Obama administration, suddenly facing accusations and now at least some of them we know turned out not to be true.
SCHIFF: Look, I’m always troubled when accusations are anonymous, I don’t think you can rely on that kind of anonymous claim. But I do think -- and I’m not in the weeds the way Senator Tester, that --
KARL: But did Tester go over the line on this one?
SCHIFF: Well what I was going to say is I imagine the folks have been talking to Senator Tester, who were going to become public and non-anonymous, and the administration realized that and that’s why they withdrew the nomination.
So I think that’s what -- what prompted that move, but yes, if it were on nothing more than the anonymous claims, that’s a slender read. But I think (inaudible) --
KARL: So at least one of these claims was -- the secret service said was simply not true, one of the more explosive charges the secret service came out and said.
SCHIFF: Yes, I’m not in a position to know what the actual facts are, so I would defer to my Senate colleagues.
KARL: All right, Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
KARL: Coming up, the powerhouse roundtable is here with more reaction to our exclusive interview with the secretary of state. Plus the president’s personal attorney takes the fifth, we’ll ask Chris Christie what it all means for the president.
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MICHELLE WOLF, HOST, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' DINNER: It is kind of crazy that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn't even in contact with Michigan.
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KARL: That was comedian Michelle Wolf at last night's White House Correspondents' Dinner, one of the few jokes that we can play here this morning. We'll have more on the debate over her remarks. But first, let's bring in our powerhouse "Roundtable": former New Jersey Governor and ABC News contributor Chris Christie; Democratic strategist Donna Brazile; pollster and ABC News contributor Frank Luntz; and Shannon Pettypiece, the White House correspondent for Bloomberg News.
So I want to start with the -- we'll get to the Correspondents' Dinner, but, Governor, we are headed towards...
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC CONTRIBUTOR: That we will, buddy.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: They're still blushing.
KARL: We are headed towards -- I mean, really, an historic summit, assuming it happens, between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. What do you think is going on in the president's mind on this? What does he actually think he can achieve in this first meeting?
CHRISTIE: Listen, I think, knowing him as well as I do, he thinks he can achieve it all. This is how he works. You know, he began by being very rough on this guy, name-calling, tough sanctions, all the rest. This is the way this president was for all his years as a real estate developer in New York City, to be as tough as you can in the beginning, and then work to get a deal that you can call a win.
And I think that's probably what his strategy is, because that's what his strategy always is. And I think that's what -- now, whether it will work or not, we're all going to get to watch and see. But I'll tell you this much, I never thought I'd live long enough to see Kim Jong-un and the president of South Korea hugging at the DMZ. I never thought I'd live long enough to see that, Jon.
KARL: I mean, Donna...
BRAZILE: They were hugging. They were holding hands. They each stepped across the boundaries. Look, my dad served...
KARL: Like Macron and Trump, I mean, you know?
BRAZILE: That's right. This has been a long time in coming. The Korean Peninsula is a place that has been marked by not just a lot of violence but a lot of tension. There's no question that the president has a lot of work to do in preparing for this summit. We still don't know the location. We don't know the time. But we do know that the South Korean president is making a lot of headway. And that's good for us, that's good for America, and that's what we should be -- but the president has a long way to go in preparing for this summit.
CHRISTIE: Sure, absolutely.
KARL: There are risks there.
FRANK LUNTZ, ABC CONTRIBUTOR: That's why he has got 40 percent support. When you think about every single day there's a negative Trump story, and yet he's at 40 percent job approval in the polls, it's because he does things that nobody expects. And this is a guy that when you assume that he is down and out, he always comes back.
He doesn't get the credit for it, but he's getting -- among the American people he's still getting this acclamation for doing something different.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And to your point about this is who he is, I think there he does have this feeling of people all my life have told me what I can't do, that I can't do the impossible. And so he continues to try and do the impossible.
But, I mean, talking to people in the administration, which I'm sure you hear this as well, I mean, there is this cautious optimism. There is definitely the sense that they are optimistic, there's a possibility of peace, but they are well aware they could played here, that this could just be Kim stalling for time, that this could go very badly.
So there is not any sort of naive pollyanna-ishness going on in the White House right now. In the administration, you know, and throughout, you know, the State Department and the Defense Department, they are aware of the risks and the potential here.
CHRISTIE: But, Jon -- you know, but here's -- the bottom line, though, is if it goes bad, he'll just blame Kim Jong-un. I mean, and it's like not like Kim Jong-un is a sympathetic figure who people go, oh, well, how could you blame him? I mean, this is a guy who has been awful to his own people in a family that has been terroristic in terms of their conduct both in the region and inside their own country.
So it is risky, always, to go for the brass ring. But this risk is a little bit less, I think, from a public perception for Trump because if he swings and misses, I guarantee you it will be Kim Jong-un's fault and Donald Trump walks away from the table because Kim Jong-un was being unreasonable. That's the way that...
PETTYPIECE: Well, maybe as far as who gets the blame, but from a national security standpoint -- from a national security standpoint, if this goes bad, well really -- where does that leave us?
CHRISTIE: Well, how are we worse of than we are today? I mean, where we are today is that we have a nuclear North Korea, who is pointing -- testing missiles, threatening its neighbors, threatening the United States, and so if this summit goes bad we're back in the same spot that he was left in by Obama.
So, the fact is he is no worse off from a national security perspective for it. He is taking a risk.
He may take some hits for taking the risk if he misses, but I'll guarantee you his hits will be more...
BRAZILE: We've been dealing with the instability of North Korea for a long time. The Bush administration, Obama administration, Clinton administration. We've all been trying to deal with three generations of Kim.
The question is, you know, can the president go in to these negotiations with a clear picture of what the United States needs to accomplish.
Also, China remains a wild card in all of this. We don't know what -- I want to know what China is thinking as these two leaders meet together for the first time. So, we've got a lot of work.
CHRISTIE: Donna, do you think, though, that really, seriously, do you think that North Korea is not doing this because China is not pushing them in the small of the back already?
BRAZILE: I'm clear they are.
CHRISTIE: They're doing it quietly, but they're doing it.
BRAZILE: They're doing it...
PETTYPIECE: And there is a sense that China doesn't want to be cut out of this. China wants to be driving these talks, China wants to be very much involved in this. So, I think there's a concern that the U.S. and South Korea might be taking the lead and they're going to be left to the side.
KARL: I thought it was interesting, I asked Secretary Pompeo twice very directly will Kim get any rewards before the complete and total dismantling of the nuclear program, and he didn't answer the question. I mean, are they...
CHRISTIE: Diplomacy, Jon.
KARL: Are they going to be scaling back sanctions before?
Because I remember vividly at the end of the Bush administration when Kim Jong-il agreed to do away with their nuclear program and they imploded the cooling tower, you remember, at the Yongbyon nuclear facility, it was destroyed, it was done. They had a secret...
BRAZILE: They had a backup. They had a backup.
So, you can't trust -- that's my view, you can't trust them. But at least the president should go in, prepare to keep those sanctions and see what happens.
KARL: Nobel Prize?
BRAZILE: It's too early.
KARL: They were chanting Nobel, Nobel in Michigan last night.
CHRISTIE: He's achieved at least as much as President Obama did to get his Nobel. So, I mean, let's be fair, you know.
Now, if he actually gets something done here, then I think he will do it. It will kill them over there in Oslo to have to hand it to him, but if he does something on North Korea he'll get it.
LUNTZ: Look, if he does it, it resets the political dynamic, which Trump desperately needs right now. And the public is looking for something to cheer, they're looking for something good to happen, so he should be rewarded. He should be at least applauded for trying. And I don't think that he's getting the recognition, I don't think he's -- at this point that he's getting the recognition for just how significant this is.
KARL: Well, it sounds like you got some recognition around here.
Now, let's turn to the other thing that's going on back here, the investigation. I want to play something that the president said on Fox & Friends, one of the oddest interviews I think I've ever seen of a president on a morning show. Take a listen to this.
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TRUMP: You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI, it's a disgrace. And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point I won't -- our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia.
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KARL: First of all, before I ask you specifically about that, you talk to the president over the phone fairly often, does he sound like that when you talk to him? I mean, he was -- he was yelling through a good chunk of that.
CHRISTIE: Well, it depends on the day.
KARL: So, what does he mean? What does he mean when he says...
CHRISTIE: It's pretty clear here that, you know, you don't need to be a good friend of his to know that he's aggravated by this. He in his soul believes that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia. He believes that. And as a result, he is incredibly aggravated by all that's going on here and everything that continues to go on, and that's what you're hearing expressed there.
Now, that's language that I've said to him any number of times you shouldn't use. You shouldn't say that the FBI is corrupt at the top, given that you appointed the person who is at the top of the FBI. You appointed the attorney general, you appointed the deputy attorney general, and so I've urged him any number of times, like, if you really feel that way then fire them, because you can't have both. You can't say that and then not fire them.
So I think -- but what underlies it is less the facts of what he's talking about than the emotion that he's feeling about I didn't do this, we didn't do this, and why is this still going on. So that's what is driving it. It doesn't justify it, Jon, but that's what...
LUNTZ: But the consequences of this are significant where the Republicans used to be supporters of our criminal justice system are now hostile to it, and the democrats find themselves -- who are hostile find themselves supporting it.
CHRISTIE: Not all of us, Frank.
LUNTZ: The fear -- the fear -- the fear here is that the American people do not trust the FBI, do not trust the CIA, do not trust the Justice Department. It is continuing like an acid to eat away at the confidence that we have to its institutions that we absolutely have to maintain.
BRAZILE: Well that -- that -- the American people distrust practically every institution right now.
LUNTZ: For good reason.
BRAZILE: OK, but -- but that should not fuel the president contempt for those who are doing their job trying to get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, to discover whether or not these Trump officials, many of them who have been under investigation, if they did collude with the Russians, if they did conspire to help the Russians with the dissemination of e-mails, with the hacking of the DNC, these are serious issues.
This goes to the heart of who we are as a country and our democracy. And Mr. President, you’re not above the law. That’s what’s going on. He’s frustrated, but so are many Americans.
We want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, Frank, that’s, I think, ultimately what the issue is.
LUNTZ: But -- but (inaudible) -- we went through the same thing during the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton and e-mails and all of that, and I don’t want to equate it, but right now all of these institutions are under supreme attack and it is corrosive and we have to find a way to -- and I don’t say that we can, but we’ve got to remove the politics from it and hold people accountable and personally responsible without trying to make it a witch hunt.
PETTYPIECE: To your point of corroding (inaudible), I was just talking to a criminal defense lawyer who said you know what, if I had a case in Chicago completely unrelated to Russia, let’s say it’s a drug trafficking case, all I would have to do is go before a jury and say well we all know about the FBI and the issues we have with them right now.
Just plant a seed and there is this opinion that’s starting to pervade the American public’s psyche that you can’t trust the FBI, that you can’t trust the DOJ because of these attacks. And that could be leveraged in so many unintended ways that have nothing to do with Russia, because so much of what the FBI and DOJ does has nothing to do with acting in collusion.
CHRISTIE: Here’s a good -- here’s a good contrast now. Let’s talk facts. We have an FBI director now who is not running in front of every T.V. camera every time you (ph) watched to have his voice heard across the country. An FBI director who cleaned out the leadership that was there before in a quiet and professional way and broadened his own leadership.
And I think what you’re going to see from Chris Wray over the course of the next number of months and years is that type of quiet, calm, professional leadership. Most Americans couldn’t pick Chris Wray out of a line up, and by the way, that’s the way it should be with the FBI.
And Jim Comey -- well listen, I -- believe me, Frank, I’ve said this to the president and I think he’s wrong for not noting that, but the other thing we’ve got to note here is that there’s just been -- and I -- and I know Jim Comey for a long time, and I had great respect for him and worked with him, but this, you know, festival that he’s holding over the last ten days for his book and his sanctimonious and self righteous conduct is contributing to exactly what you’re talking about, because a guy who cares about law enforcement first doesn’t run around doing the stuff that Jim’s doing.
And I like him, but I’m really disappointment with the way he’s conducted himself.
LUNTZ: We tested this -- actually for Nightline we tested Comey’s appearances, and what they found was that they want to believe him when they go in, but because he attacks Trump’s appearance, because he cannot identify where he was on election day and everyone knows where they were when they found out Donald Trump was being elected, and because of just the way that he presents himself.
He’s actually hurting his creditability rather than helping it.
CHRISTIE: No doubt.
BRAZILE: Well 700,000 thousand books later, maybe a million books later (inaudible).
KARL: Yes, and the book tour’s got a few more weeks. All right, I’ve got to turn, we -- we said we would, White House Correspondents’ Dinner. You know, my -- my take here was that the comedian Michelle Wolf went over the line.
This was not the idea, this was not the intention, this was supposed to be celebrating the first amendment, but Chris Christie -- Governor Christie, you were there --
CHRISTIE: I was there, front row, baby. So listen, you know, I’ve been through a number of these, as you know, John, and I’ve been the subject of a lot of this stuff over the course of the years, right?
You go in there and everybody knows where the line is, and last night when you attack people’s appearances, when you attack their character, not their policies, and you do it repeatedly. I mean, you know, one of two shots in, fine.
But what she did last night to Sarah Sanders, what she did to Kellyanne Conway, what she did to Ivanka Trump, I was struck and so was my wife who was sitting next to me by the fact that this comedian, this female comedian, spent more time beating up on women last night than she did on men.
And I thought that was a fascinating part of it, her most vitriolic stuff, personal stuff, the things she called those people last night, like listen, I’m from New Jersey so we’re not sensitive, but last night was over the line.
BRAZILE: I’m from Louisiana and so I’ve -- I’ve -- I’ve heard some gutter talk in my life. It was racy. OK? I watched it on CSPAN and --
CHRISTIE: You were the one (ph).
BRAZILE: Oh hell yes (ph), I love me some CSPAN, now. I watched it. It -- it really -- but remember, we have no norms now. This is a president who has criticized women, who have called reporters some disgusting things. I don’t know if there are any more lines anymore.
LUNTZ: That’s not fair.
BRAZILE: That -- that being said -- look, come on, this president has said some raunchy things, OK?
LUNTZ: We’re talking about a -- we’re talking the comedian, not the president.
BRAZILE: A comedian who was -- yes, but -- but Frank, the president at times says things and then he says well, I’m just joking. Look, I’m not defending her. I would use fresh material, OK? But what I’m saying is that it was racy, it was -- it was -- it was right there.
LUNTZ: It was disgusting. And the fact is it aired live on CNN, it aired live on CSPAN --
BRAZILE: Yes, I watched it on CSPAN.
LUNTZ: -- and there are eight or nine year old kids watching this stuff --
BRAZILE: But they’re watching the president of the United States say some of the most disgusting and vile things and you’re telling me --
LUNTZ: -- and on Monday -- and -- and on Monday -- can I use the words -- Jon, can I use the words that she used yesterday?
KARL: Not on the air.
LUNTZ: No. The answer’s no. That’s the point. If you can’t --
LUNTZ: If you can’t say -- you’re going to have to pray a long time to get over last night. The only -- if you can’t say those words on this show then you shouldn’t say them at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
KARL: But this was not the intention of the dinner --
PETTYPIECE: -- and I think this is good for her career, I think it’s probably good for publicity, it’s -- you know, people are talking about it so that’s what you want as -- as an entertainer. But yes, as White House correspondents who are in the trenches -- literally in the basement every day dealing with this stuff, this was a dinner that was supposed to be about unity.
It was a big step that the administration officials had actually -- were allowed to come to the dinner this year. The president didn’t -- didn’t come but having Sarah there sitting up on the dais with everyone, that was -- I mean, a baby step but it was a step forward. So it is about trying to create unity and talk about the first amendment and freedom of speech.
BRAZILE: Well then don’t invite comedians because you never know what’s going to come out of --
LUNTZ: Ray Romano performed there and he was perfectly fine. We’ve had comedians come there (inaudible).
CHRISTIE: But, you know, Jon, the other part of it, too is --
CHRISTIE: -- and I could see on the faces of -- of you folks on the dais --
CHRISTIE: OK, listen. You guys are responsible for it, though, because ultimately you picked her, right? Now I’m not saying that means you knew everything she was going to say and it’s your fault. But I think it -- it -- it colors -- it should color what happens next year.
CHRISTIE: OK? It’s we’re going to have another dinner next year and I think -- you know, we’ve had all kinds of vetting problems in this town.
CHRISTIE: -- White House Correspondents Association now joins the list of people who didn’t vet the way they should have and I think next year we should have somebody who, you know, little racy ain’t bad. You know, we both like that. But -- but the really personal, mean-spirited attacks on people’s appearance -- all right? We don’t use that (ph).
KARL: As the gridiron says, singe, not burn.
CHRISTIE: Yes. Agree with you on that.
BRAZILE: She made a lot of people uncomfortable (ph).
KARL: All right. Much more roundtable coming up. And Frank Luntz convenes a tense focus group of angry voters in Florida. We’ll be right back.
KARL: When we come back, Frank Luntz gives us a look at angry and divided voters in America. And all week long you can get the latest on politics and breaking news alerts on the ABC News app, download it during the break.
KARL: If you're looking for disgruntled voters in America, you don't have to look far. A new Pew survey shows that two-thirds of Americans believe their side in politics has been losing more often than winning. With just months until the midterm elections, focus group guru Frank Luntz set out to explore the political divide.
Luntz spoke with two dozen voters in Orlando, Florida, half of them Democrats, half of them Republicans, all self-identified as angry.
The only thing uniting the two sides: deep frustration with what's going on in Washington. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't done a lot of elections. This is the first election where families and friends lost each other.
LUNTZ: Show of hands, how of you guys lost a friend because of this election? That's -- my god. What happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're just so set in your ways, don't want to hear anything, don't want to listen, can't hold a conversation because you're the a-hole and I'm right.
LUNTZ: But to lose a friend. What happened?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you're a racist. You're a bigot. You're this. You're that. I'm unriending you. Don't ever talk to me again, don't ever contact me again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It becomes exhausting to do nothing but argue with people you want to love.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just felt like I couldn't be friends with anyone who agreed with our current politics. My position was, no, you may not be racist, but I mean, I think you're saying you're OK with racism.
KARL: Within minutes, that word sent Republicans on the defensive.
LUNTZ: You think a majority of Trump voters have -- not necessarily are racist, but have racist tendencies? You're nodding your head, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am.
LUNTZ: Why do you feel that way?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because all of the focus on immigration. It's an us against them mentality.
LUNTZ: Are you guys -- do you have racist tendencies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I disagree with her 100 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what I think wrong -- no, but that's what I think what's wrong in America is you stop the dialogue and you start to name call.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you're point fingers at one individual race. Build a wall. Build a wall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's where the border is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's racist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As somebody who is Hispanic, my dad voted for Trump. Why? Because he came here legally, my wife came here legally from Ecuador. Why is it fair for somebody to get in front of the line when they come here illegally?
KARL: That conversation exposing vastly different experiences in the same country.
LUNTZ: Which groups have the most difficult challenge? Who chose black and African-Americans number one as one of your top three.
Eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.
Who chose hardworking taxpayers?
Two, four, six, seven.
And zero over here.
One, two, three, four, five, all over here.
If this isn't tribalism, as they have defined it, I don't know what is. This is not arguing over issues or even Donald Trump, it's like we are two separate countries.
KARL: Those there was some consensus on who to blame.
LUNTZ: I want a word or phrase to describe congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Self-serving (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Selfish.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Incompetent and disconnected.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible)
LUNTZ: Is it possible that the two party system is so broken that we should seek an alternative?
KARL: Some glimmers of hope in the end.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have their issues that they want to focus, and we also have our issues. And we can do it. But we don't need to denigrate each other for doing what we support.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People need to be able to sit and have uncomfortable conversations and ask the hard questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can come to consensus. Somewhere in the middle, we can meet and say we'll help this much here and we'll help this much over here.
KARL: Frank and the rest of the roundtable are back.
Frank, you (inaudible) Andrew Shoe to conduct this focus group and you've done these discussions for a long time. And you did some really tense ones during the campaign. Has it actually gotten worse?
LUNTZ: This is worse.
The organization Andrew created, One People, it's created because of that, because of those people. We did a survey right after, 82 percent of Americans say that we are more divided than at any time in their lifetime, four out of five. And it's across the board -- Republican, Independent, and Democrat.
I had trouble getting control of that group. For 12 minutes, I sat with your producers off the set as they continued to yell at each other, having no idea that I'd even stepped away. And, Jon, you and I have known each other now for 20 years, and governor for about 10 years. We have to do something. We have to hold our party accountable. We have to say enough is enough, because if we don't do it this poison is so deep and so pervasive now it's no wonder our kids are now bullying others and yelling at each other and using language that is so inappropriate, they're getting it from their parents. And if we don't do something, including the news media, than we'll be on the point of no return.
KARL: And, Donna, you were saying that's why so many people are independents right now.
BRAZILE: There's no question. I mean, not just they're parking their grievances as independents. They don't want to have anything to do with either political party. At the same time, I do believe it is a responsibility that we all should take up -- last weekend, I was in Charlottesville with Michael Steele, the former chair of the RNC. The former chair of the DNC and the former chair of the RNC, we sat down in Charlottesville, because we want to find common ground. We want people to start talking to each other and not talking at each other.
I think we have the tools, but we need the leaders who are not afraid to convene these kind of conversations.
LUNTZ: Here's the problem is that they don't have the tools because they're not taught civics, they're not taught American history.
BRAZILE: Good point.
LUNTZ: And so we don't even know how to have this dialogue. I don't want us to talk with each other, I want us to listen to each other. But the young people today and their parents don't know how.
CHRISTIE: Well, there's a difference, I think, I've said all along, I think America was designed to be an argument. America was designed to be an argument. I have no problem with the argument. The problem I have is we're not listening to each other while we argue.
We're arguing at each other rather than to each other. We're arguing to make a point to camera but not to convince each other of our good will at least, if not our position. And there's a way to do this. And but it's harder when you're a politician to do this.
And a lot of our politicians right now are taking the easy way out. They're playing to the grandstand. And as long as we continue to reward that, not only with votes, but with TV time for those people, you're going to keep getting it.
PETTYPIECE: I think when you look at 2018 to this point of people being independent and this anger being across the entire system, I think that should be a wake-up call to Democrats because I think there is this perception that in 2018, well, everybody is angry with the current system so they'll immediately vote for Democrats.
But it does not seem people are voting across the traditional party lines. Just because they don't like what Republicans who are in control are doing does not mean they're going to vote for Democrats. They are voting for the individual. They are going to get disgusted and not vote at all.
I think there's this perception that there will be large voter turnout, but it's very likely I think also that people will just be demoralized by everything and not even turn out.
CHRISTIE: I will tell you, 2017 in New Jersey, the lowest voter turnout for governor in the state's history. It was 36 percent turnout for a statewide gubernatorial race in New Jersey. To just give you an example, eight years earlier, when I was elected the first time, it was 48 percent. It's a big, big change.
KARL: All right, we are out of time. We are going to convene this group again. Thank you very much for joining us. We'll be right back.
KARL: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight," and have a great Sunday.
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