TRANSCRIPT

KT McFarland on the Trump admin's foreign policy priorities

President Trump's deputy national security adviser provides insight on 'Fox News Sunday'

 

This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," April 16, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I’m Chris Wallace.

North Korea defies the world with a missile test that explodes just after launch, as President Trump shows a new willingness to project U.S. force.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of.

WALLACE: We’ll report from Pyongyang as the regime celebrates the birthday of its late founder with a military display. And Vice President Pence visits South Korea amid growing tensions.

Then, dozens of ISIS fighters are killed as the military unleashes the "Mother of All Bombs" in Afghanistan.

TRUMP: Really another successful job. We are very, very proud of our military.

WALLACE: We’ll discuss President Trump's decision as commander-in-chief with Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland.

And as Russia, Iran, and Syria warned the U.S. against launching new strikes on the Assad regime, we’ll break down the president's military and diplomatic options with the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry.

Plus, we will ask our Sunday panel about reports the president is siding with his moderate advisors against Steve Bannon and the populists.

All, right now, on "Fox News Sunday."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: Hello again. Happy Easter, and happy Passover from Fox News in Washington.

The U.S. and North Korea are continuing their tense standoff this weekend with the Kim regime showing off advanced long-range missiles and conducting a missile test that exploded on launch while President Trump threatens to, quote, "solve the problem." In a few minutes, we’ll talk with K.T. McFarland, second in command of the National Security Council about North Korea and other hot spots.

But we begin with Team Fox coverage. Kristin Fisher traveling with the president in West Palm Beach.

But first, senior affairs correspondent Greg Palkot live from Pyongyang, North Korea -- Greg.

GREG PALKOT, FOX NEWS SENIOR AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, a celebration marking the anniversary of the birth date of the founder of this country ended with a dud this weekend. Sunday morning North Korea time, a missile grew up at launching, this according to U.S. and South Korean authorities. Now, just a couple hours prior to that, we watched dozens of missiles on parade here in Pyongyang, including a medium-range solid fueled missile which could have been the type used in that lunch on the east coast of the country.

If successful, it would have threatens the U.S. ally Japan, as well as some 35,000 U.S. service members there. Now, there is some speculation that the missile was a victim of a U.S. cyber-attack, it has been done in the past, but there are also failures.

Now, the regime of Kim Jong-un has still had no comment regarding the launch or the failure. One of the officials here admitted to me a short while ago, however, these kinds of mistakes can happen.

Now, a missile launch or a nuclear detonation was expected to mark that anniversary date, but there was new speculation that this could have been timed ahead of the arrival in South Korea today of Vice President Pence.

In South Korea, the launches are monitored at a flight control center we were at last week. Foreign ministry officials said today that the launch and the military parade were a threat to the whole world. Otherwise, tensions remained high over the bad missile and nuclear program, the Trump administration demanding that North Korea give them up. Officials we have been speaking with here show no signs of pulling back. They brush off the threat of more sanctions and they say they would fight off any preemptive military strike.

As for young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he has been in office for just over five years. It looks like he is somewhat to be reckoned with -- Chris.

WALLACE: Greg Palkot, reporting live from Pyongyang -- Greg, thanks for that.

Now, let's bring in Kristin Fisher in West Palm Beach with reaction from the White House -- Kristin.

KRISTIN FISHER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, the reaction from the White House has been very restrained, no tweets from the president.

The first response team from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He put out a very short statement that reads, quote, "The president and his military team are aware of North Korea's most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The president has no further comment."

Now, the vice president was in the air and on his way to South Korea when that failed missile test took place. He was briefed onboard Air Force Two and landed in Seoul, about nine hours later when he told American and South Korean troops that their courage and valor are needed now more than ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This morning's provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FISHER: From South Korea, the vice president will travel to Japan, Indonesia, and Australia, to reassure North Korea's nervous neighbors that the U.S. has their back.

To reinforce those diplomatic promises, the Pentagon is standing in some military muscle. Right now, a nuclear powered aircraft strike group is steaming towards the Korean peninsula. The president calls it an "armada". It is a show of force just like it was a show of force to drop the "Mother of All Bombs" on ISIS fighters in Afghanistan, and to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at a single Syrian air base.

The question now: how does President Trump handle a nuclear power led by a man that’s even more unpredictable than he is? Chris?

WALLACE: Kristin, thank you.

Joining us now from West Palm Beach, President Trump's deputy national security advisor and a familiar figure to FOX viewers, KT McFarland.

KT, welcome back to Fox News Sunday."

KT MCFARLAND, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: It's great to be back on FOX News, Chris. Thank you.

WALLACE: What is the president's reaction to the missile launch failed, yes, but still, the willingness of North Korea to launch that missile in open defiance of President Trump's warnings?

MCFARLAND: Well, look, it's not a surprise. Even in the last year, President Kim of North Korea launched over 30 missiles, most of them have failed. So, it wasn’t -- it shouldn't come as a surprise to us, we were expecting something particularly surrounding the birthday of his grandfather. So, it wasn't a surprise.

I briefed President Trump on it last night. We saw it for what it was. Secretary Mattis issued the statement, and the president doesn't have any further comment on this particular launch attempt.

WALLACE: Is he distressed or upset that they’ve ignored his warnings?

MCFARLAND: No. And let me sort of preface this by saying -- at the beginning of the administration, in January, President Trump asked the National Security Council, asked me to chair a series of interagency meetings, and that's my job as number two on the National Security Council. I go to all of the agencies and departments, the intelligence committee, Defense Department, State Department, the military, and say, what are the options here?

And that’s what we did. With North Korea, we did a big, wide study, and I -- and we directed the intelligence community and others, come up with things you haven't thought of before, think outside the box, and they came back with some really interesting suggestions, sanctions, diplomatic things we could do, secondary sanctions we could do, and obviously, military options and we presented them to the president. He was very pleased with it.

And that allowed him when he went to the -- when he went to Mar-a-Lago for the summit with the Chinese president to talk in earnest about North Korea. And they spent a lot of times talking about North Korea. The Chinese president has a lot of influence over North Korea. China provides some 85 percent of their food, their transportation fuel, their cooking fuel. So, they have a lot of economic influence, as well as other influence over North Korea.

And the two presidents talked about how China might help, along with the other efforts America is taking with our allies.

WALLACE: There’s a lot there and I want to unpack it. But I have to ask you another question first.

MCFARLAND: OK.

WALLACE: Did the U.S. sabotage this missile?

MCFARLAND: Now, Chris, you know we can't talk about secret intelligence and things that might have been done, covert operations that might have happened. So, I really have no comment on that, and nor should I.

WALLACE: But as Greg Palkot pointed out, there have been cyberattacks in the past. Should the Kim regime consider that a possibility?

MCFARLAND: Well, the cyberattacks that occurred in the past are on the part of the Kim regime when they hacked Sony Pictures. So, you know, I do think we are entering a whole new era, not just with North Korea, but with everybody, with any country, major country, we are entering a cyber platform, a cyber battlefield. That is where a lot of the wars of the future are going to be fought.

But I don't have any particular comment on what happened with the North Korean missile. But it was a fizzle.

WALLACE: President Trump ratcheted up pressure on North Korea and the Kim regime this week.

MCFARLAND: Yes.

WALLACE: This was one of his tweets, "North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! USA."

And he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don’t know if this sends a message. It doesn't make any difference if it doesn't. North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Despite the tough talk and sending a carrier strike force to the area, as we were showing pictures right now, KT, North Korea showed up new, long-range and submarine launched missiles and conducted a test launch. You talk about this long discussion of options.

MCFARLAND: Yes.

WALLACE: What does the president do now?

MCFARLAND: Well, I think in that parade, there were a whole number of missiles that were shown and there were some canisters, which may or may not have held missiles, but they were canisters that could have held intercontinental ballistic missiles -- in other words, missiles that could go from North Korea and potentially reach the United States.

So, the threat is upon us. This is something President Trump is going to deal with in the first year. But I would also say that as a result of the Mar-a-Lago summit -- the two presidents were meant to have, you know, short conversations, short one-on-one conversations. What they ended up having were several hours of conversations.

WALLACE: Well, let me talk to about China because the president has indicated after that that he had formed a good relationship with President Xi and that he's hoping President Xi will help with North Korea. There was talk this week about the fact that North -- that China is turning back coal shipments from North Korea and threatening to cut off its oil supply. North Korea depends -- 90 percent of its oil comes from China.

On the other hand, trade between the U.S. and North Korea is up 37 percent so far this year over last year.

So, my question is, it did President Trump get a specific commitment from President Xi on North Korea?

MCFARLAND: Well, I think -- you didn't mean trade between North Korea and the United States.

WALLACE: No. If I said that, no, between the two.

MCFARLAND: Yes, between China and United States.

WALLACE: No, no, no. Trade between North Korea and China is up 37 percent.

MCFARLAND: OK. Yes, it is, and that's why China has a kind of leverage it does have. And that’s why the two presidents talk about, could China use that kind of leverage, which they have been willing to do in the past. They’ve been willing to do a little of it in the past, but were they willing to a lot more of it? And the Chinese president gave an indication that he would be willing to work with President Trump and with other allies to try to see what could be done.

We all understand, the Korean peninsula should be denuclearized. We’ve said it. The Chinese have said -- Russia, everybody said it. The question is, how do you do it?

And the Chinese have always been concerned about instability in the Korean peninsula and I think what the president -- President Trump -- was able to convey to the Chinese president is that North Korea is no longer an asset. North Korea is a liability. North Korea is a liability to everybody and it's a threat not just to the United States, not just to South Korea, not just to Japan, not just to Russia, but it's actually a threat to China as well.

And at this point, we have to wait and see. You know, it’s like your kids in the back of a car when you’re on the long trip saying, when are we going to get there? Well, in this case, I think we should give the Chinese president some opportunity, some sometime, as well as pursuing the economic and diplomatic pressures that we have and our allies have that we can bring to bear on North Korea.

WALLACE: All right. I’ve got limited time. I’m going to remind you of your old job as a FOX News contributor and ask you to give me specific answers here.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump talked a lot about getting along or trying to get along with Vladimir Putin and cracking down on China. But this week, he seemed to flip 180 degrees on both. Here are a couple of clips.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

TRUMP: Right now, we are not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia.

I have really gotten to like and respect, as you know, President Xi. He’s a terrific person. We spent a lot of time together in Florida. And he's a very special man.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

WALLACE: Again, I need a quick answer. Is that good for the president to shift so dramatically and so quickly on both China and Russia?

MCFARLAND: Well, first of all, the president now, President Trump has now spent a lot of time with President Xi. He's gotten to know him. He’s gotten to understand what his priorities are. He shared what our priorities are. He is not yet met with Vladimir Putin.

And, you know, the president has said, Secretary Tillerson has said that our relationship with Russia really depends on Russia. We would like to have a good relationship with Russia, but Russia has been doing some things of late, whether it's in Syria, whether it's with American democracy, that we really -- we take very seriously.

So, the ball is in their court. We’d love a great relationship with them, but it's up to them to take those first steps and to stop taking the steps that could potentially adversely affect us.

WALLACE: This week, the U.S. dropped the largest nonnuclear bomb in our arsenal, the largest it's ever used in combat on a cave complex in Afghanistan, killing dozens of ISIS fighters. Here was President Trump's explanation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: What I do is I authorized my military. We have the greatest military in the world and they’ve done a job as usual. So, we have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing. And, frankly, that's why they've been so successful lately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: But, KT, while that apparently was a success, there have been some tragic mistakes recently. Just this week, 18 Syrian allies who -- rebels who were allies of us, were killed in a friendly fire incident by U.S. forces. The question some people are asking is: is the White House exercising enough oversight?

MCFARLAND: Well, first of all, what the president saw, what we also when we came into office was the previous administration had a lot of decisions that should have been made by the battlefield commanders that were being made by the West Wing of the White House, and that wasn't the right place. The West Wing of the White House doesn't know the battlefield is like, what the conditions are like or the immediacy of the threats that they are facing.

So, President Trump has taken a number of steps to delegate that authority back where it belongs, back where it was in the Reagan administration, frankly, to the battlefield. And so, what you are seeing now is exactly what’s happened. Now, sometimes mistakes are being made, and we regret any loss of life, especially to any of our allies.

But on the other hand, it is a battlefield commanders’ decision to make and we do not have a president who is going to be sitting there picking out bombing targets. He's left that up to the military, so far, with a few tragic exceptions. But so far, the military has been terrific. I mean, look at Syria attacks on the airport that was used by the Syrians to deliver those chemical weapons.

That was done completely successfully. It was done quickly. And it was done with enormous effect I think.

WALLACE: KT, I want to ask you one last question, and we are less than a minute left and I want to talk about you. General Michael Flynn brought you in as his number two national security advisor. Now, there's a new head of the NSC. That’s General McMaster. He apparently wants is own team. The reports, you know, are that you are out and you're moving to Singapore to be the ambassador there.

What's happened? And how do you feel about it?

MCFARLAND: Well, first of all, President Trump hired me and he gave me a call on Thanksgiving Day to ask me to be the deputy national security advisor. So, I want to set that straight.

Now, General Flynn has departed and General McMaster has arrived. I helped through that transition and the president and I have had a number of conversations over the last two months really about what my role would continue to be and where I could be best used for what his vision is in foreign policy. So, I can tell you, we talked about it again last night, and there are changes coming. But I’m not going to tell you what they are. You got enough secrets out of me this day.

WALLACE: All right. But I won't pack my bags to visit you in Singapore quite yet.

KT, thank you. Thanks for your time.

MCFARLAND: Hey, one more thing, Chris.

WALLACE: Yes? Yes, ma’am?

MCFARLAND: One more thing, happy Easter to you and everybody at Fox News, and your entire, very large viewing audience!

WALLACE: Well, thank you, and we wish the same to you and to the president's party, thank you -- especially for your time this holiday weekend. And it's always good to talk with you, KT.

MCFARLAND: Thanks, Chris.

WALLACE: Up next, we’ll ask the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry, about North Korea and President Trump unleashing the U.S. military.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: A look outside the beltway at Jerusalem as Christians mark Holy Week in the old city.

The Trump administration's launch of two military strikes in less than two weeks is a sharp contrast to Barack Obama, who employed a more cautious approach to the use of force and promised to end America's wars.

Joining me now here in Washington, the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Mac Thornberry.

Mr. Chairman, welcome to "Fox News Sunday."

REP. MAC THORNBERRY, R-TEXAS, CHAIR, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me.

WALLACE: What you make of the events in North Korea this week. First of all, that display, that impressive display of weapons, some of which we hadn't seen before and the launch, yes, failed, but still the launch of a ballistic missile despite President Trump's warnings?

THORNBERRY: Well, I think the message was: we are strong and we can hurt you. That's what --

WALLACE: The message from North Korea?

THORNBERRY: From North Korea, that's what they're trying to send, especially to us, but also Japan, South Korea and maybe they're trying to send a message to China as well that they, North Korea, are not as dependent on China as some of us think.

I think we are in a different place with North Korea. For years, the father and the grandfather would talk tough, maybe launch a missile, but then negotiate for some increased aid of some sort. I think that this guy is not interested in negotiation. He wants to have an inter ballistic missile with nuclear warhead to threaten us and I think he's determined to get it. Even failed launches tell them something and improve their program.

WALLACE: So, there are a couple of questions I want to ask, first evolve directly, how close is North Korea to developing a nuclear weapon that could hit the U.S. homeland?

THORNBERRY: Well, we know they have nuclear weapons because they have conducted nuclear tests. The question is, how close are they to an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach our homeland? And the short answer is, we don't know. There are various estimates among the intelligence community on how it would take. But again, I have no doubt that they are driving toward that and every test, failure or success, helps them.

WALLACE: Here was North Korea's vice foreign minister this week firing back at President Trump and his warnings. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAN SONG-RYOL, NORTH KOREAN VICE FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We are taking into account the most aggressive and dangerous options that the U.S. might come up with and we also have our options, our countermeasures ready in her hands, which means we’ll go to war if they choose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: You talk about Kim Jong Un, the new, young leader -- although he's been there five years -- of North Korea, and that he's determined to get a nuclear weapon and to become a nuclear power. Do you think that he is so unstable as some suggest that he might be willing to go to war with the U.S. to achieve that?

THORNBERRY: I don't think he is suicidal, but he is certainly erratic. And so, the most important thing we can do is increase our military presence, especially our missile defense in that area, because we cannot rely on his good judgment to prevent award. We have to have the military capability there to deny him that ability.

WALLACE: I want to talk about President Trump's posture on this because I have to say, there was a growing sense of tension, if they don't solve the problem, China, we will, and sending the carrier strike force as we say, Kim ignored all of that, had this big military parade, had a launch -- yes, it failed, but they still have the launch. And from KT McFarland today, what you got was more of the sense this is a process. It’s going to take a while, let's wait and see with China.

Does the U.S. have a clear strategy? And frankly, what are our options? What can we actually do?

THORNBERRY: Yes. Well, I think when it comes to North Korea, we need to make sure we are tight with our allies, and that's the reason it's very good Vice President Pence is there. We need to keep the pressure on China to rein North Korea in, and their announcements about restricting coal shipments, for example, is a big step forward. That's the biggest export North Korea has, is coal to China.

But the third is the most important thing is increase our military presence in the region and our military capability overall.

Remember, China does not want to have the new carrier battle group in their backyard. They are not excited about the missile defense deployments in Japan and Korea. Well, the answer for China is to get a hold of this guy and North Korea and that will reduce the necessity of us increasing military presence.

WALLACE: But, Chairman, let's talk realistically about the military threat. If we were to launch a preemptive strike and there's been some loose talk I think in the U.S. about that, to take out North Korea's missile program, or nuclear program, they have thousands -- I don’t have to tell you -- of short range missiles that are on the border, I’ve been in that area, the DMZ, and 30-mile to Seoul, that are aimed at Seoul. That’s a metropolis of 20 million people, not to mention the 24,000 U.S. troops.

If we were to hit them, they would hit back in Seoul and it would be a human catastrophe.

WALLACE: Yes. Number one, I think it is important as the president says, you don't take options off the table. One of the many mistakes made during the Obama years was to talk about what you would never do, and that just assist your enemy in their calculations.

But, I also think if we can continue to encourage China to put pressure, increase our missiles -- our military presence in that region, what you may well see if some changes inside North Korea without a conflict. Now, we can't know for sure, but what we do have to know, though, is that we have to have the military capabilities strong enough to prevail if he does something erratic and unexpected.

WALLACE: Let me ask you a different part of this equation you mentioned in passing before. How effective is the U.S. missile defense both to protect our allies in the region and to protect the U.S. homeland?

THORNBERRY: We can knock down missiles. But we need to step on the accelerator to do more for missile defense. It is -- it is remarkable going back to President Reagan's speech in 1983, there has been political opposition in this country to doing more on missile defense, and we've been scraping for more money, both to deploy more of the systems we have, and to put research into new systems. We have been fighting that fight during Obama years.

This is the time to step on the gas, because it's not just North Korea, it's also the Iranians, as well as others were pushing for missiles we need to be able to knock those down.

WALLACE: I want to take a bigger 30,000-foot look at this. President Trump has authorized the use of force several times in the last two weeks. He ordered the cruise missile strikes, 59 cruise missiles on Syria. Dropping that huge bomb on ISIS fighters in Afghanistan and sending a carrier strike force towards North Korea.

Question, what message do you think he is sending to our allies and to our enemies?

THORNBERRY: Well, let's step back for a little context. The Obama years saw U.S. withdrawal from Iraq reducing our presence in Afghanistan, drawing a red line in Syria, not following it up, and cuts to the defense budget of more than 20 percent since 2010. And during that time, we saw invasion of Crimea, the Chinese building islands in the South China Sea, et cetera.

President Trump is taking a different approach, thank goodness. He is sending a message that now the United States is going to stand up for our interests and make sure we have the military capability to prevail if we choose to use force.

WALLACE: But here’s my --

THORNBERRY: It's a different message that has been given before.

WALLACE: But here’s my question: is there a strategy behind the force? Do you know as the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee what our strategy is in Syria, in Afghanistan, in North Korea?

THORNBERRY: Well, I don't think anybody can step back and say, OK, I know these events will happen over the next year or two, or five, but I do think you are seeing a different approach to the world, and it is one that says not only to adversaries, but two friends who have had questions about us, that we are willing to put the resources into defending ourselves and making the judgments from time to time when it's necessary to use those military resources. That's different than the message that was sent out during the Obama years.

WALLACE: Finally, especially with this increase willingness to use force: does President Trump need to go back to Congress to get authorization for the use of military force and all these arenas a lot, that are far beyond the authorization back in 2001 and ‘02 after 9/11?

THORNBERRY: Well, we -- administrations of both parties have used limited force to advance national interest, whether it was President Reagan bombing Gadhafi in ‘86, or Clinton trying to get bin Laden in the desert and so forth. Those sorts of limited strikes do not require an action by Congress.

I believe that we should, however, update the authorization to use military force against the terrorist networks and have been working to try to do that.

So, if it's sustained, if it involves U.S. boots on the ground and lives, then it needs to come to Congress. If it's limited military action, then, not so much.

WALLACE: Chairman Thornberry, thank you. Thank you, especially for coming in on this holiday weekend.

THORNBERRY: Happy Easter and Happy Passover.

WALLACE: Thank you. Same to you, sir.

Up next, we’ll bring in our Sunday group to discuss the rising tension between the U.S. and North Korea.

Plus, what would you like to ask the panel about how the president should handle provocations from Kim Jong-un? Just go to Facebook or Twitter, @FoxNewsSunday and we may use your question on the air.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: President Trump sharply escalating his rhetoric on Russia’s role in Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If Russia didn’t go in and back this animal, you wouldn't have a problem right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: We’ll ask our Sunday panel about the new chill in relations with Moscow, next on "Fox News Sunday."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESET: If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that to -- really to what's happened over the last eight years, you’ll see there’s a tremendous difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: President Trump highlighting what he says is an end to the micromanaging of the military by President Obama with what he believes are better results.

And it’s time now for our Sunday group. Michael Needham, head of the conservative think tank Heritage Action for America, Bob Woodward from The Washington Post, Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin, and former National Security Council staffer Gillian Turner.

Well, Jennifer, let me start with you.

What do your sources say over the last 24 hours about this impressive display of military hardware by the Kim regime in Pyongyang and also that launch, yes, failed, but still a launch of a -- of a missile in defiance of President Trump?

JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what's notable, Chris, is, when I walked out of the Pentagon on Friday afternoon, it was a pretty relaxed atmosphere over at the Pentagon. You didn't see the president travel down to Mar-a-Lago with his war cabinet, if you will. He did not have his defense secretary within. He did not have H.R. McMaster with him, his national security advisor. They had plans in place to react. They knew that -- they know that North Korea has not tested an ICBM, an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the U.S., so they had different scenarios.

The bottom line is, I think if you look at General Mattis' statement, it was 22 words in length, very short, very terse, to the point, and he said the president would have no more comment. And what they're pointing out is that that was a medium range missile, it failed, he fizzled. They’ve kind of been snickering about it. As in terms of the parade, we’re not really sure what we saw in that parade. I remember when I was a Moscow correspondent that we learned decades after we saw those parades in Moscow that many of those missiles that we believed at the time during the Cold War were, in fact, fake. So I think we don't know what we saw at that parade.

WALLACE: Gillian, as someone who worked in the Bush 43 White House and the National Security Council and also the Obama National Security Council, we have a question from a viewer about how President Trump should handle Kim. Let's put it up on the screen. George Valetine tweeted this. "I believe he," Mr. Trump, "needs to come across very strong that we will not play games with North Korea." How do you answer George? And -- and I have to say that I -- I’m feeling a little whip-sawed because this week it seemed that the administration was building up what’s going to happen this week and how is the U.S. going to respond and President Trump saying, if they don't stop it, we will, and now we’re told, well, this is just part of the game.

GILLIAN TURNER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: So I think that Secretary Mattis' statement, while frustrating to us as eager viewers of the administration at this point, it's actually right on the money in terms of tone and tenor. The -- the bigger context here, despite the fact that this -- the tension with North Korea has kind of reached this rhetorical and optics apex over the weekend, is that this sort of covert -- I would -- I hesitate to call it a covert war, but sort of a covert war between the United States and North Korea has been simmering for the past three years. We maybe only heard snippets of it during the second term of President Obama because he didn't want it to be a centerpiece of its foreign policy, but it's been there all along.

And I think that I can't speak for the Trump administration obviously, but I imagine that they’re trying to, while not normalize this type of behavior from the North Koreans, make people understand that every time they test the missile now, it’s not -- it doesn't pose a sort of existential crisis for the United States. And that's the kind of steadying hand we’ve been hoping to see from the president all along. So I think that we should actually welcome it.

WALLACE: Bob, you interviewed candidate Trump a year ago and at that time he said to you, "real power is fear." Do you think that unleashing the military the way he has in the last couple of weeks and -- and making a point to saying we’re not micromanaging the Pentagon the way Obama did. And I will say, top Pentagon officials I talked to complained about not micromanaging by the Obama team. Do you think that sends the right message to both our allies and our enemies?

BOB WOODWARD, THE WASHINGTON POST: It’s -- it’s a very different message. And as you may recall, President Obama, at his first inaugural, he said, American strength comes from our humility and restraint. You're smiling because that's not the way the world is and it’s -- it --

WALLACE: It’s also not the watch word of this administration.

WOODWARD: It -- it is not. And I -- I think Trump means that when he did a year ago say that real power is fear. In North Korea the reality is, none of the options are very good. President Trump talked repeatedly, he wants to win. He likes to win. The military likes to win. The military options and North Korea, as you suggested, you have some sort of preemptive strike engagement, Seoul, Korea gets devastated. There is no win. And so what you need to do is be tough, try to deter and see if you can work something out. But we get into a military engagement in North Korea, and that's going to be hell.

WALLACE: There was a striking flip on Russia this week. In addition, there's a lot of stuff going on every week in the administration. After talking for months about getting along or trying to get along with the Putin regime and the Kremlin, a dramatic change in tone from the president this week and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov fired back. Here that is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Putin is backing a person that’s truly an evil person. And I think it's very bad for Russia. I think it's very bad for mankind.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): This fixation on trying to oust this or that dictator and authoritarian or totalitarian leader, as well known to us, and we know how it ends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Michael, what do you make of this dramatic shift this week away from Putin and towards Chinese President Xi?

MICHAEL NEEDHAM, CEO, HERITAGE ACTION FOR AMERICA: I thought the most interesting contrast was between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and actually Rex Tillerson, who was over in Russia. He was cool. He was calm. He was firm. And I think the Trump administration is developing a very clear-eyed view of what the Russians are. They’re a strategic adversary of the United States. Vladimir Putin is a former KGB thug who’s trying to relive those glory days. And because Russia hasn’t fully integrated into the global marketplace, it is very much a zero-sum relationship between the United States and Russia.

That’s different from China. There are opportunities with China for us to form a strategic partnership. We shouldn't mistake that without also recognizing that China is also a competitor. And as we look at China, we look at things they can do with us in North Korea, we don't have to be enemies with China, but we also can't be friends as long as they continue to steal our intellectual property, as long as they continue to take advantage of our trade agreements and express real military aggression in the South China Sea.

WALLACE: But, Gillian, and, briefly, that's a 180-degree turn from what this president was saying two weeks ago about China and Russia.

TURNER: It is. It’s 180 degrees and from my perspective it's a welcome turn. I mean there’s flip-flopping and then there’s flip-flopping. I think what we’re seeing here is more of a -- sort of an evolution. We’re watching the president navigate the Russian relationship in real time. And I think he's learning very quickly on this very steep, treacherous learning curve that dealing with Vladimir Putin as a potential sort of businessman is very different than dealing with him as a foreign head of state. And that's what we’re seeing.

WALLACE: All right, panel, we have to take a breaker here. When we come back, the "Game of Thrones" inside the West Wing continues and thousands of people march across the country demanding to see President Trump's tax returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: The president promised to drain the swamp, but aren't the six of you part of what's been called the Wall Street Washington revolving door?

GARY COHN, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL DIRECTOR: Look, Chris, I came to Washington to make America great again and help the president with his vision and his mission, and that's what I’m doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: White House Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn, one of the leaders of the establishment wing that is said to be winning the battle inside the White House for President Trump's ear. And we’re back now with the panel.

Well, let’s look at President Trump's policy changes, at least some of them, just this week. After promising to label China a currency manipulate, he now says they’re not. NATO, which was obsolete, no longer is. And the president also changed his mind on whether to close the export/import bank.

Michael, is the president breaking faith with this populace base?

NEEDHAM: Well, I don't know. I don’t think that was a particularly persuasive list of changes that show that he's flipping. I mean I think even this morning he tweeted out that on the currency manipulation that’s part of the ongoing negotiation over the North Korea thing. The only one there that really concerns me is the export/import bank. When you kind of look at Washington, D.C., and the swamp, the export/import bank is one of the ugliest alligators in that swamp. If you don’t believe that, you should go visit its downtown gold headquarters. The export/import --

WALLACE: But -- but -- but I mean speaking more broadly, when you see the ascendancy apparently of Jared Kushner and Gary Cohen and some of the other Wall Streeters, New Yorkers, Democrats, establishment as they’re called, does that concern you?

NEEDHAM: No, it really doesn’t because I don’t know -- I’m not on the inside, who really is up, who’s really down or what any of these people actually believe. I have no doubt that Donald Trump is the person who’s making the calls on this. And as a conservative, I’m looking at Judge Gorsuch, Justice Gorsuch now, on the Supreme Court. I'm looking at a White House that really has been the more responsible and conservative part of the negotiating side of the health care debate that played a very productive role. And so other than, you know, a couple of these export/import bank type things, I think conservatives have a lot of reasons to be optimistic.

WALLACE: The leader of the populace charge, the drain the swamp charge, of course, is chief strategist Steve Bannon. And here he was a couple of months ago when he was riding high.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: The third, broadly, line of work is what is deconstruction of the administrative state. That’s all going to be deconstructed and I think that that's way this regulatory thing is so important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Now, Bob, if you believe the reports of papers like your Washington Post, he's down, conceivably out. What’s going on?

WOODWARD: You -- you can believe that. I mean that's true. But you -- there is ascendancy and then there is crashing and you will see stories about so-and-so's winning and then two weeks later they’re fired. The question here is, who is Trump? And Trump is a pragmatist, just like those policy changes. We knew for a long time he was going to have a two track strategy on Russia, reach out to Putin, but also be tough on a number of things.

In terms of his staff, as best I can tell, he’ll -- it's a menu for him. I’ll take this one. I’ll take that one. And I’m not going to have dessert. I’m not going to have Bannon. I’m not going to have -- and so it’s -- it’s -- I would not reach any sweeping conclusions.

The real question is, as an executive, is this going to work for him, because you’re going to get stories like in my newspaper, which is quite well done, that there is a battle going on and the battle and the discussion should be about the policy, not the personalities.

WALLACE: But I don't have to tell you, personnel is policy.

WOODWARD: It is, but -- but Trump is clearly that, you know, we know from the campaign, three campaign managers, he's ruthless. You come and you go. And the people who are wise about him realize that they may be here now, but maybe not tomorrow.

WALLACE: There was another change this week by this president, not a change in his policy, but from the previous presidents. He now says that this White House is no longer going to routinely release visitor logs showing who's coming to the White House, who they’re meeting with, as President Obama did.

And another interesting development this weekend, there were massive marches across the country, people protesting. These were called tax marches. People demanding that President Trump releases his tax returns as presidents have routinely since Jimmy Carter.

And that was the subject of a tweet this morning from President Trump. Let's put it up on the screen. The president apparently not liking those marches. He says, "I did what was an almost impossible thing to do for a Republican, easily won the electrical college. Now tax returns are brought up again?"

Gillian, this president apparently thinks transparency is overrated.

TURNER: Well, that's the message. I’m getting it loud and clear. But on both fronts here with the visitor logs and with his tax returns, if I were advising him, I would say, Mr. President, bad news never gets better with age. All of this information will eventually be known. The White House visitor logs will be subject to FOIA requests in the future. We will see who came in -- in and out of the White House regardless of whether there were national security implications. That will be known.

I -- I imagine -- I can't predict the future, but I imagine that at some point we’ll get full tax returns from the president of the last few years. We've already had snippets of that courtesy of MSNBC. So I think the administration really needs to kind of buckle down on messaging here when it comes to, what are you going to tell the American people when you’re out of office and all of this information becomes known? How are you going to deal with that then?

WALLACE: But the counterargument would be, Jennifer, yes, people do apparently care about this. In the polls, by a margin of more than two to one, they say they want to see the president releases his tax returns. On the other hand, Lord knows this was a big issue during the campaign and he’s President Trump.

GRIFFIN: Well, I think you have to see it through the light of what President Trump wants to do next. He wants to do tax reform next. He’s going to need Democrats to do that. And already we’ve heard from Senator Schumer that they’re going -- Democrats are going to make an issue about his tax returns. If he wants to do tax reform, they want to see his returns.

I will point out that when MSNBC received his tax returns from 2005, it did show that he had paid $38 million that year in federal income taxes. That was a rate of about 25 percent. It was higher than what Bernie Sanders paid that year. So it's hard to understand what he is hiding and why he is not showing these tax returns.

NEEDHAM: The -- the American people really don't care, as he kind of said at the end, about his tax returns. That’s why he won. And what he does is he sets up with these fights a situation where the media goes crazy over something that the American people don’t care about.

WALLACE: But wait a minute, Michael, that wasn’t the media that was tens of thousands of your fellow Americans taking to the street. That -- and I’ve got to say, that was not something that the media even --

NEEDHAM: It was very well organized by liberal groups and -- and there was money behind it.

WALLACE: But that was democracy when the Tea Party did it.

NEEDHAM: Sure. When -- when the Americans -- when the American people rite large look at this and they say, what's going on in North Korea and are we going to have a lunatic with nuclear weapons who can hit us, when they look at their health care premiums, when they look at those (INAUDIBLE) --

WALLACE: I'm not saying it's the biggest issue in the world, but it -- it -- it is --

NEEDHAM: And so I think this (INAUDIBLE) the White House actually ends up making themselves look like the victim of a media that is coming after them over things that, look, I agree, if I were running the White House, I’d release the visitor logs. If you’re having an -- an untoward meeting, you’re probably going to do it off-site anyway. But they create a dynamic where what the media is going crazy about is not what the American people care about. The American people care about the real policy issues.

WALLACE: All right, we have to end it there. More to talk about. I’d love to hear what you have to say, Bob. I will, in commercial.

WOODWARD: The -- the power of no. Trump has just said no. And unless you can get somebody to give them to you, he wins.

WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next Sunday.

Up next, our "Power Player of the Week," the people's diva gives me a singing lesson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RENEE FLEMING, OPERA SINGER: You’re tenor -- are you a tenor?

WALLACE: I don't know what I am. I used to sing in the bathroom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: Pope Francis celebrating Easter mass today at the Vatican.

We want to give you a treat on this holiday. One of the special people we’ve profiled over the years and her joyful sound. Here's our "Power Player of the Week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RENEE FLEMING, OPERA SINGER: I haven't really been able to transfer into that extraordinary otherworldly creature, other than I hope on stage.

WALLACE (voice-over): Renee Fleming has been called the people's diva. It’s a title she loves. Yes, she is America’s leading opera star, who’s played 54 different roles. But she prides herself on being down to earth.

WALLACE (on camera): Are you at all a diva? Are you difficult?

FLEMING: Am I a diva? Well, you know, there are people who have probably had their moments, you know, with me. A lot of bad behavior in singers is caused by nerves, but my philosophy is that the people around us are there doing as much work, if not more work, behind the scenes and they are the last people you would ever be unkind too. So I hope I’m not a diva offstage.

WALLACE (voice-over): She's made a point of going beyond opera, singing rock and jazz. And in 2014 becoming the first classical artist to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl.

FLEMING: In those two minutes, which had to be perfect or it will follow you for the rest of your career, I can't say I’ve had another experience quite like it, but it was thrilling.

WALLACE: Whatever the venue, Fleming is also known as the beautiful voice.

WALLACE (on camera): How is it that you’re able to create this remarkable sound?

FLEMING: My speaking voice is horrendous, right?

WALLACE: No.

FLEMING: So it -- well, but, I mean, it’s -- it’s sort of weak and it's not very resonant. But then when I sing, the sound is a totally different range, color, all of it. It's all about the breath. You take in a breath and you make a sound. So, for instance, if you say hello Renee, try that.

WALLACE: Hello, Renee.

FLEMING: So I would teach you how to enhance that, how to increase the range. Hello, Renee!

WALLACE: Hello, Renee!

FLEMING: You’re a tenor -- are you a tenor?

WALLACE: I don't know what I am. I used to sing in the bathroom.

FLEMING: Just try a siren. Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah.

WALLACE: No, I'm not doing that.

WALLACE (voice-over): Master class aside, Fleming, who is now 58, said she’ll retire from opera by next year and just do recitals.

FLEMING: My whole career I've played these girls sort of 18-23 (INAUDIBLE). So, you know, and we can suspend disbelief to a point and then you sort of think, OK, that's enough of that.

WALLACE: But, don't worry, the people's diva will continue to share her remarkable talents.

FLEMING: It's just something incredibly moving that the human being, a human being can make this sound and that great music has been cultivated around it. So, I feel very privileged to be doing this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: What a treat. Fleming made headlines last week when The New York Times reported she’s retiring from full operas next month. But Fleming later clarified she is not ready to leave the stage just yet.

And that's it for today. Have a great Easter and a great week and we’ll see you next "Fox News Sunday."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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