Despite history, 'more than a ray of light' on North Korea: Top House Dem

ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl goes one-on-one with the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California.
8:14 | 04/29/18

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Transcript for Despite history, 'more than a ray of light' on North Korea: Top House Dem
The top Democrat on the house intelligence committee. Congressman Schiff, you heard the secretary say he thinks there's 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? 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 this. It would be irresponsible not to. We have to hope that this is a change of course. I think we need to be mindful of their record. It's clearly an opportunity. We're already seeing things we have never seen before. Kim Jong-un going into south Korea. Appearing before the press. Jointly. This is -- we're already seeing things. I want to play what president trump had to say just last night about all of this. They were saying, what do you think -- uh -- president trump had to do with it? I'll tell you what, like how about everything. Okay. So I don't imagine you agree 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? I think it's more than fair to say that the combination of the president's unpredictability and his bell Kosty had something to do with the north Koreans' willingness to come to the table. Before he hangs the mission accomplished banner, he needs to realize we may go into a confrontational phase, and he may not want the full blame if things go south. So he ought to be a little circumspect about that. Most important, when things do become confrontational, as is likely to happen it will be very important that we're lashed up with our allies, South Korea and Japan, otherwise, North Korea will pick us apart. This president is not particularly good about lashing up with our allies. And you also mentioned, you didn't get into the Iran agreement with the secretary. 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. It will breed distrust with the is out Korean allies on whether they can rely on us. I have to disagree with you on this. You have made this point for months. Other Democrats have. Saying that the president's threats to walk away from the Iran a agreement, to rip it up, were going to doom any effort to get negotiations with the north Koreans. It hasn't been true. This has been two separate tracks, hasn't it? The president has not backed away at all from his threats on the Iran deal. Yet the effort with North Korea moved forward faster than most people thought it would. Certainly, the north Koreans have done an about face recently. If we drop out of the Iran agreement. If we renege on the Iran deal when the Iranians are complying, it may affect the north Koreans' ability to trust the U.S. If people don't believe we keep our word, then how are they going to follow our lead? They're not. I don't think you can divorce the two. We had a readout from the Koreans on the meeting between moon and Kim. According to that readout, North Korea is vowing to shut down their nuclear test facility. But also to allow journalists to come in to witness firsthand. To view what the facility is and what will be destroyed. How confident are you -- I want to ask you the same question I asked secretary Pompeo that he wouldn't answer. Do we have a good handle, does our intelligence community have a good handle on the extent of those nuclear programs? 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. When we thought we knew what we did about Iraq, we were wrong. So I think it's prudent to go into this with some skepticism. That means we have to insist upon a rigorous inspection regime in North Korea. Something that will be a difficult ask. 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 into any Iranian military facility, they'll have a hard time getting the north Koreans to do it. We have to verify with the north Koreans because they have a history of cheating. The south Koreans have put out what they say is a quote from Kim Jong-un during this meeting. Want to put it on the screen. He said, if we meet often and build trust with the united States and if an end to the war and nonaggression 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 believe that? I don't know. Now, they have talked about denuclearization in the past. A lot of what they're agreeing to now, they have agreed to in the past. And as it has turned out, they have had something very different in mind when they talk about denuclearization. If the U.S. Gives up their nukes, we'll give up ours. If they give us economic relief before we're asked to do much, that sounds great. Look. This is an important opportunity. 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 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. I remember when president Obama had his first meeting with president-elect trump, he said the biggest challenge for the new president's agenda was going to be North Korea. It looked very dark. Now there is -- there is an opportunity. That's 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. Okay, before you go. Radically different subject. I want to ask you about Ronny Jackson. Confirmation battle. He dropped out. I know that's a senate issue. Not a house issue. Were you uncomfortable to see the kind of anonymous accusations thrown at Ronny Jackson, somebody who served as president Obama's doctor for eight years. Had a sterling reputation among many in the Obama administration suddenly facing accusations. And now, at least some of them, we know, turned out not to be true? I'm always troubled when accusations are anonymous. I don't think you can rely on that kind of anonymous claim. I do think, and I'm not in the weeds the way senator tester is. But did tester go over the line on this one? What I was going to say was, I imagine the folks that have been talking to senator tester who are going to become public and nonanonymous. And the administration realized that. That's why they withdrew the nomination. So -- I think that's what prompted that move. But, yes, if it were on nothing more than the anonymous claims, that's a slender read. But I think -- At least one of the claims was -- the secret service said was not true. One of the more explosive charges. The secret service came out and said -- I'm not in a position to know what the actual facts are. So I would defer to my senate colleagues. All right. Adam Schiff. Thank you for joining us. Thank you.

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

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