Is North Korea no longer a nuclear threat?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," June 13, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People are really happy about it, even I would say non-Trump fans. People are really happy. It's something that I'm very proud of. With that being said, I want to get it done. But I believe that Chairman Kim wants to get it done. I think we've done something very historic already in one way, but to me success is when it gets done.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The president needed to disrupt the status quo and the president has disrupted the status quo. He should be applauded for doing that. Time will tell how this ends.

CHUCK SCHUMER, D, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Chairman Kim achieved far more than President Trump did. The summit was much more show than substance, what the Texans call all cattle, no hat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: No, it's all hat, no cattle. So I don't know if Senator Schumer lost the Texas vote they are what that phrase turn, but all hat, no cattle, that was how the Democrats described in North Korea summit. Here's how the North Koreans described the day after from state media.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Showing his understanding, the president of the United States expressed his willingness to stop the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises which the North Korean side regards as provocation during the times of North Korea-U.S. dialogue and also express his willingness to provide security guarantees to North Korea and lift sanctions against it as the relationship improves through dialogues and negotiations.

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BAIER: They say all kinds of things but without we would bring you that the day after the summit. What about the fallout from it and what comes next? Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, editor in chief for "The Weekly Standard," Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," and Eli Lake, columnist for "Bloomberg View." OK, a lot of reaction, Mollie, on Capitol Hill. Some positive, some Republican saying -- you heard the speaker there, others saying they are concerned that things are still on the table and you hear the world reacting that maybe Kim got everything he wanted.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": You're hearing a lot of pooh-poohing, a lot of claims that Kim got everything he wanted. The fact is we really don't know what will come out of this deal. We have a light framework. All of it will be worked out in the details. We will need to see substantive talks. They'll need to move quickly, but it could actually take many months, many years to achieve what we need to see. It's a good start, and at worst it's a neutral. At best it's a very good start, but we have to work out a lot of particulars.

BAIER: What struck in that interview, Steve?

STEVE HAYES, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I was struck by the president once again saying that he wants to get U.S. troops home, which I think the North Koreans have been asking for for a long time, looks to be a concession. I was also struck by his answer, or probably better phrased his non-answer on human rights. You pressed him on it twice. The first time he sort of dodged the question and then found a way to praise Kim Jong Un for his strength and his toughness. The second time he downplayed human rights abuses in North Korea by saying basically everybody is guilty of some things. He could go through a long list of nations that have those problems. So I was struck by that.

The other parts of it I think, on North Korea on the denuclearization question itself was consistent with what he heard. He's obviously very proud of himself.

BAIER: Eli?

ELI LAKE, COLUMNIST, "BLOOMBERG VIEW": Call me old-fashioned but I like to believe America is a beacon of democracy and freedom and that when the American elected president meets with tyrants like Kim Jong Un, there should be at the very least refrain not to go out of his way to basically lie about the nature of this person. At one point he said in another interview the North Korean people loved Kim Jong-un. We know that's not true.

And in your interview this kind of thing, he said there's a lot of bad people that do a lot of bad things. That is the sentiment that we normally associate with Noam Chomsky and the hard left that try to explain away and rationalize the horrors of these Stalinists like Kim Jong Un.

So as a general rule I don't really like that kind of thing, and of course it would be great if you got a deal that got rid of nuclear, and I'm not saying you don't do diplomacy, but I don't think that Trump needed to go as far as he did in his flattery.

HEMINGWAY: I actually wish that President Trump had spoken against the human rights abuses.

BAIER: He did speak, we are told, in the summit behind closed doors.

HEMINGWAY: Sure. I wish I would speak more when we talked to him about it now. But it's also true that what he is attempting to achieve right now is a positive pitch. He's trying to paint a vision for Kim that he has a different path that should be going. And his goal, President Trump's goal, is to make sure that the people of Portland aren't bombed by North Korea.

You have this thing with neoconservatism militarism fused with moral idealism that seeks to achieve everything but ends up accomplishing nothing and doing so at a huge cost of blood and money. And so I think it's important that we understand we have our national interest here. We want to keep from getting into a nuclear war, and we will hopefully substantively deal with human rights abuses, which are serious and need to be dealt with. That's not our first concern.

LAKE: If I may respond, an old neocon militarist by the name of Ronald Reagan managed to negotiate arms control agreements and have a relationship with Soviet premiers and still keep a laser-like focus on the dissidents who were rotting in their gulags. And when the Soviet Union fell, that was something that many of those former dissidents when they were free remembered. They said it was something that gave them hope.

I'm sorry, but I hold out that expectation. I'm not expecting a negotiation where Kim Jong Un suddenly becomes a Jeffersonian Democrat. I understand that's not going to happen. But at the same time there's a difference between that and having an American president basically become in some ways sort of part of the dictator's lie about his popularity with his own people.

BAIER: Is there some of this that is what if? What if three summits on the road he really does happen? What if the paradigm has shifted? What if the people who were looking at this as a breakthrough are the right ones, and the ones that are very scared of that potential are the wrong ones?

HAYES: That's possible. Anything is possible at this point. But I do think you don't have to be a realist or a so-called realist to recognize that it's a problem for the president of the United States to say things that aren't true. The president came back and tweeted that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat.

BAIER: "Just landed, long trip, but everyone can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. Meeting Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future. Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to war with North Korea. President Obama said North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer. Sleep well tonight. We save a fortune by not doing more games as long as we are negotiating in good faith, which both sides are."

HAYES: Right. And realists and non-interventionists pride themselves on seeing the world as it is, that's the whole basis of their philosophy. That is not describing the world as it is. North Korea remains a first order threat. North Korea still has nuclear weapons. North Korea still has a tyrant dictator as its leader. They present a threat to the United States. There's no getting around that.

And for the president of the United States to come back, however proud he is of what he's done, and say that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat, that's a problem. Four months ago, going into this, before the summit was announced, the position of the administration was we won't even talk to the North Koreans unless they take concrete, verifiable steps towards denuclearization. They just abandon that, which is its own concession. And now four months later with the only intervening event being the signing of a document by a dictator whose forbears have lied about things for 30 years, they are now saying there's no more nuclear threat.

HEMINGWAY: I think you are seeing a lot of frustration that things have gone so well. A lot of people said that many everything Donald Trump was doing would not go well for him or for the United States. His bellicose tweeting supposedly had us on the brink of nuclear war. We all see what happened in the summit. We are not naive. It's not like the nuclear weapons magically disappeared, but we saw that we have a very good start, and if it doesn't continue to go well we will have to renegotiate.

HAYES: Do you think North Korea is a nuclear threat still?

HEMINGWAY: Everyone understands --

HILTON: The presidents said the opposite.

HEMINGWAY: What we all know is that we very good talks, that we have a good framework, that we have a good way --

HAYES: So you disagree with the president's assertion?

BAIER: No, there is something about taking him literally and taking him figuratively and the tweets and what they mean and reading between Trump language. There is all that that you have to factor in. But you're right. It's still in nuclear threat tonight. There's no doubt about it.

HAYES: Look, we can decide that we don't want to for our own reasons to take President Trump's words literally. That is not a luxury that the rest of the world has, and I guarantee you it's not something that Kim Jong Un is. And it puts Mike Pompeo in a box who now has the very difficult task of constructing the verification regime when the president has already declared that there is no longer a threat.

HEMINGWAY: I would argue that the American people have far less trouble understanding President Trump than a select few here in this town do.

BAIER: I have got 10 seconds.

LAKE: We'll see what happens, but I don't think the president should be taking a victory lap. Look at President Obama's deal with Syria and chemical weapons. We saw how well that did.

BAIER: All right, there you have it. When we come back, a long run for a good cause.
 

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