Administration pushes diplomacy with Iran and North Korea

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," May 9, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Flying back are three what they were calling hostages, we call them fine people, three really fine people. They seem to be healthy. I will be there to greet them, Mike will be with me. It will be I think a very special time. Nobody thought this was going to happen, and if it did, it would be years or decades, frankly. Nobody thought this was going to happen. And I appreciate Kim Jong-un doing this.

What happens? Who knows. We have a chance at something really great for the world, and great for North Korea, and great for everyone.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Trump in the cabinet room with a big announcement that he had tweeted earlier, letting the world know that there was a success coming. "I'm pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air, on his way back from North Korea with three wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting. They seem to be in good health, also a good meeting with Kim Jong-un. Date and place set," going on to say that "Secretary Pompeo and his guests will be landing at Andrews Air Force base at 2:00 a.m. in the morning. I will be there to greet them. Very exciting."

You heard about, and there are the three coming back, to America. The date and time set, we are getting word that it looks like Singapore is the place that this will happen, and likely the first week or few days in June for this meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.

We will start there with the panel. Let's bring them in: Charles Hurt, opinion editor for The Washington Times; Charles Lane, opinion writer for The Washington Post, and Jason Riley, Wall Street Journal columnist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Jason, obviously a significant moment that sets the table for what the president hopes will be another significant moment.

JASON RILEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, it was clearly a diplomatic victory for the president. He deserves a lot of credit here. Clearly this was a point of contention between North Korea and the U.S., these hostages. And it's a good faith that gesture by North Korea that they came through with it.

But I keep stressing that we have been here before. We have had a hostage releases in the run-up to summits. We've had communiques promising peace before. What we've seen recently is a charm offensive by North Korea. And I hope that the president understands that he needs to keep his eye on the ball here. He has repeatedly said, I'm going to get a good deal or no deal at all. And I think we have to remember that North Korea and its leader has not suddenly turned into some statesman who loves peace and wants nothing else to do with his past pursuit of nuclear weapons, and that's what's important here.

BAIER: You see the pictures of Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, on the ground and North Korea, a 90-minute meeting with Kim Jong-un. Clearly they are hearing something from the North Koreans that is encouraging to them setting the table for the summit.

CHARLES LANE, WASHINGTON POST: What strikes me about this is you could almost say that President Trump is approaching North Korea the way President Obama approached Iran, with sort of a great deal of hope in the power of a new departure by the United States with an old enemy who is building nuclear weapons. Of course there are a lot of difference. One is North Korea actually has nuclear weapons. Iran had not acquired them yet.

And I think a real wild card is that Kim Jong-un is young. He's only 30, or 32 years old. And it's just possible that he is looking from some kind of agreement that will guarantee him personally and his family a hold on power, not just the regime but him personally would be guaranteed in power. And that may be something that gives the United States a little bit of leverage in the sense that he, unlike his father and grandfather, was not at the end of his career but at the very beginning of one. It will be very interesting to see how this works out, but I have to say I do agree with Jason that this is so far nothing that we haven't in some form or another haven't already seen before.

ROBERTS: He wants relief from the sanctions. He wants more aid from the west. He wants what the country has always wanted.

BAIER: So the president just in the past one minute tweeting out, "Looking forward to reading the hostages (no longer) at 2:00 a.m." So the president will be there at Andrews and I'm sure will have an image of that.

CHARLES HURT, WASHINGTON TIMES: You think there might be a picture taken, some video of that? It is amazing the flare for theatrics that this president has. And not only I think that it's a good thing for a president to have that sort of understanding, but I also think it's probably a very smart way to deal with foreign enemies.

Of course the terrible thing about the Iran deal was that it was so frontloaded with both bundles, pallets of cash, and then real money and sanctions relief. It was all frontloaded. And all of the tough stuff came later, and we can all debate about whether or not that stuff is working or not. But, to be sure, as Donald Trump approaches this, I don't think that he is going to frontload things, and it would be terrible if he did frontload all the goodies at the beginning and then had the tough stuff later on.

BAIER: You're going to have to entice them somehow.

HURT: Sure, absolutely.

LANE: That's how the last North Korea deal was structured. It was all frontloaded.

HURT: Absolutely. But I also think that a lot of the experts now are saying that, oh, pulling out of the Iran deal is going to undermine the North Korea deal. I kind of see that as a little bit differently. It shows that Donald Trump is willing to stick to what he believes, which is an important thing. But it also means, I hope it means, that what Donald Trump winds up doing is he gets an actual treaty that Congress --

BAIER: To that point, I want to read this because I just felt it was interesting. "National Review," "President Obama had the chance to make a true American promise by submitting the Iran deal as a treaty but he knew that America wouldn't make that deal. He knew that most of the Senate including a number of Democrats were opposed to the deal. The Iran deal did not represent America's word. It represented Obama's word. Under the American system one president's pledge does not bind the next president. There is a constitutional process for securing enduring interview obligations. In other words, if a president wants to preserve his policies he should follow constitutional processes. Donald Trump didn't break an American promise. He corrected an American mistake." I think it was interesting, and well written. And the pushback to the criticism --

ROBERTS: The Susan Rices and the John Kerrys. And the former president himself, Obama complaining about this. President Obama neither sought nor received permission from Congress, approval from Congress, to do this, which paved the way for the way Trump was able to roll it back. They have no one to blame --

BAIER: Whether right or wrong as far as the geopolitical, where it is, that's the constitutional --

ROBERTS: That was the initial sin here because that is not how you go about dealing with foreign powers when it comes to cutting deals. You don't go it alone. You go through Congress which of course has to answer to the American republic. So he had neither congressional report nor really the popular support of the American people.

BAIER: On the flipside, Chuck, there are still the question of what is next when it comes to the Iran deal and renegotiating and this 180 period.

LANE: Iran joins the long list of people in this world who did something very important, never dreaming that Donald Trump would ever become president of the United States. They made a calculation that the United States had made a strategic turn in its approach to the Middle East, that they were now going to sort of like mix into China, they were going to open to Iran, and that this would continue on a bipartisan basis where perhaps Hillary Clinton would be elected. And then boom number, we have an election. And then boom number two is the president actually keeps his promise.

This is very disruptive, notwithstanding whatever bluster they may be putting out. They have been thrown back on their heels and they're looking for a strategy.

BAIER: Very quickly.

ROBERTS: And European is going to have to decide whether they want to deal with Iran or deal with the U.S.

BAIER: Very quickly, is there a risk here that, like President Obama who desperately wanted that Iran deal for legacy issues, and the administration is clearly focused on that like a laser, that President Trump is in the same position with North Korea, touting it before he sits down with Kim Jong-un.

HURT: There is always a risk of that, but you are talking about a completely different guy. You're talking about a guy who obviously prides himself on being a very smart dealmaker. But this is -- he has at every turn underscored the fact that it may or may not work out.

BAIER: He'll get up and walk away.

HURT: Yes, he'll get up and walk away.

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