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Andrea Mitchell vs. State Dept’s Nauert: Does President Trump’s Language Sound Like Kim Jong-un?


NBC's Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell spars with State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert over President Trump's threat to unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea. From the August 9, 2017 State Department briefing: MS NAUERT: Okay. Andrea, hi. ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Hi. Could I follow up? The Secretary's call was, though, well after the "fire and fury†language. Senator McCain and others – Republicans and Democrats – have complained that it was, quote, "bombastic†in Senator Feinstein's view, "not helpful†said Senator McCain, that no other president – not Eisenhower, not Reagan – no other president that he knew of would have used such language. And the implication from all of the critics is that the President's language implied the use of nuclear force. Is that the way the Secretary read it? And did the Secretary have any early warning from his earlier phone call that this was going to happen? Or did he only speak to the President in the aftermath of it? MS NAUERT: He spoke to the President after the fact, after the President made his announcement. As people look at this, and some consider comments to have been alarming, I would have to go back to this: Let's consider what is alarming. What is alarming: two ICBM tests in less than a month, two nuclear tests that took place last year. As a matter of fact, when there's an earthquake in China, I get many emails and calls from all of you asking, "Was it another nuclear test?†That is how big of a deal this is, what is going on. QUESTION: But — MS NAUERT: Let me – let — QUESTION: Let me just follow up. MS NAUERT: Let me finish. Okay, please. QUESTION: Sure. MS NAUERT: That it is a big deal what is going on; it is a concern to the world, not just the United States. Those are alarming actions. They are provocative actions on the part of North Korea. QUESTION: My question is: Given those provocations from North Korea, which has been belligerent in the extreme – granted, stipulated – is it helpful or unhelpful for the President to use the kind of language that we have seen previously coming from Kim Jong-un, not from presidents of the United States? MS NAUERT: Look. QUESTION: Is he exacerbating the problem? MS NAUERT: The President spoke to him, to Kim Jong-un, in a language that Secretary Tillerson has said – and said this morning – in the kind of language that Kim Jong-un will understand. We would like to see results. The pressure campaign – we see that working. The international community is in agreement with the United States and many of our partners and allies on putting additional pressure on North Korea. The Secretary happens to be coming back from the ASEAN conference, where they had tremendous success. It was a good week for diplomacy. I know you all want to obsess over statements and all of that, and try to – want to make a lot of noise out of that, but what is important to keep in mind is that this diplomatic pressure at ASEAN, at the meeting of the 10 Asian nations along with the United States, came to a joint agreement and a joint statement and put out a very strong condemnation of North Korea. We are all singing from the same hymn book. QUESTION: A lot of us have reported on the success of that effort at the UN and in ensuing days. That doesn't take away from that question: the lack of a national security interagency process – in this instance with a presidential statement – that has perhaps undercut the previous success. MS NAUERT: I don't know that I would agree with you on that.

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Andrea Mitchell vs. State Dept’s Nauert: Does President Trump’s Language Sound Like Kim Jong-un’s?


NBC's Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell spars with State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert over President Trump's threat to unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea. From the August 9, 2017 State Department briefing: MS NAUERT: Okay. Andrea, hi. ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Hi. Could I follow up? The Secretary's call was, though, well after the "fire and fury†language. Senator McCain and others – Republicans and Democrats – have complained that it was, quote, "bombastic†in Senator Feinstein's view, "not helpful†said Senator McCain, that no other president – not Eisenhower, not Reagan – no other president that he knew of would have used such language. And the implication from all of the critics is that the President's language implied the use of nuclear force. Is that the way the Secretary read it? And did the Secretary have any early warning from his earlier phone call that this was going to happen? Or did he only speak to the President in the aftermath of it? MS NAUERT: He spoke to the President after the fact, after the President made his announcement. As people look at this, and some consider comments to have been alarming, I would have to go back to this: Let's consider what is alarming. What is alarming: two ICBM tests in less than a month, two nuclear tests that took place last year. As a matter of fact, when there's an earthquake in China, I get many emails and calls from all of you asking, "Was it another nuclear test?†That is how big of a deal this is, what is going on. QUESTION: But — MS NAUERT: Let me – let — QUESTION: Let me just follow up. MS NAUERT: Let me finish. Okay, please. QUESTION: Sure. MS NAUERT: That it is a big deal what is going on; it is a concern to the world, not just the United States. Those are alarming actions. They are provocative actions on the part of North Korea. QUESTION: My question is: Given those provocations from North Korea, which has been belligerent in the extreme – granted, stipulated – is it helpful or unhelpful for the President to use the kind of language that we have seen previously coming from Kim Jong-un, not from presidents of the United States? MS NAUERT: Look. QUESTION: Is he exacerbating the problem? MS NAUERT: The President spoke to him, to Kim Jong-un, in a language that Secretary Tillerson has said – and said this morning – in the kind of language that Kim Jong-un will understand. We would like to see results. The pressure campaign – we see that working. The international community is in agreement with the United States and many of our partners and allies on putting additional pressure on North Korea. The Secretary happens to be coming back from the ASEAN conference, where they had tremendous success. It was a good week for diplomacy. I know you all want to obsess over statements and all of that, and try to – want to make a lot of noise out of that, but what is important to keep in mind is that this diplomatic pressure at ASEAN, at the meeting of the 10 Asian nations along with the United States, came to a joint agreement and a joint statement and put out a very strong condemnation of North Korea. We are all singing from the same hymn book. QUESTION: A lot of us have reported on the success of that effort at the UN and in ensuing days. That doesn't take away from that question: the lack of a national security interagency process – in this instance with a presidential statement – that has perhaps undercut the previous success. MS NAUERT: I don't know that I would agree with you on that.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Press Conference: “The Bulding Is Hardly Hollowed Out”


State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert led a press briefing with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Tuesday at the Department of State. Questions transcript: MS NAUERT: Carol with The Washington Post. QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. As I'm sure you're well aware, after a very brief honeymoon you've come under a great deal of personal criticism from critics who say you've been presiding over a hollowing out of the department, low morale, and a department that seems sidelined. Could you respond directly to some of the criticism and tell us if any of it has – you have taken it to heart and changed in any way because of that criticism? SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I hope what – the little stroll I just took you around the world indicates the building is hardly hollowed out. All of that activity I was describing to you, and as I said, has been undertaken using the expertise of the people in this building. Any time you have a dramatic change in the administration, like we had six months ago, there are going to be individuals who struggle with that. And I spoke to this on the day – first day I entered the building and gave my remarks on the steps of the State Department, that I recognized that and that I hope people could put those feelings aside and commit themselves to the mission. And my observation has been that the vast majority of people in the building have done that. Has everyone done it? No. Some people are still struggling to get over that and that's – those are the voices that generally are heard. I have a very active engagement with people in the building. I meet up to three times a week with the under secretaries, the assistant secretaries; I do lunches with Foreign Service officers once a month; I do town halls, so I'm listening to people and getting a sense of how they are feeling about things. And the people that I'm coming into contact with are excited about the redesign, they're excited about hopefully getting some assistance on some areas that have troubled them for a long time, and I think they're beginning to understand that the mission of the State Department is to lead America's foreign policy, create conditions for a better, more secure U.S., more prosperous U.S., and we do that at home, we do it abroad. That mission doesn't change. The policy that we are leading is dictated by the President of the United States, who was selected by the American people. So we are working on behalf of the American people who selected this President to carry out his foreign policies, and then all of the professionalism and the skill that people have in this building to do that, they dedicate themselves to doing that. And my experience is that people – that's where people are. The ones I work with, they are very dedicated to that. Have I encountered some people on the way that didn't want to do that, couldn't do that? Yes. And we have given them permission to go do something else. And I say that not in a pejorative way, but we have had individuals who did not want to serve in a certain role, and I said fine. Find something else for them to do. I don't want to force anybody into a position they're not committed to. So we have these conversations with people. Yes, I think it's – it is to be expected that we will go through some morale issues early on. I hope as the redesign goes forward and people become more engaged in that, that there is going to be an uptick in that. I'm mindful of it, I pay attention to it. I cannot change what we're doing from a policy standpoint, if that's what's behind people's unhappiness. MS NAUERT: Rich Edson, Fox News. QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. As you go through this Iran review in the administration and there are different points of view, are you of the point of view that perhaps the JCPOA and waiving sanctions or a failure – or not waiving those sanctions could create an issue, given that the assets have already been unfrozen, coordinating with European allies potentially being a problem to try to get them to impose sanctions? And is there an avenue where the administration might seek stricter enforcement of that agreement? SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think the unfortunate aspect of the agreement is that a lot of the – a lot of the benefits to Iran for signing the agreement were up front. I mean, they kind of got the immediate payoff with the release of a lot of cash to them. They got the immediate lifting of the sanctions before they ever had to deliver on anything. And I think that's the frustrating part of this agreement is there are limited levers available to us if we're unhappy with what they're doing, other than to say we're not going to waive sanctions going forward. It is important in my view that we coordinate as much as we can with our European allies and with Russia and China, who are signatories as well, because the greatest pressure we can put to bear on Iran to change behavior is a collective pressure. We are in discussions with in particular, our European allies about their view of how Iran is doing under the agreement. They have generally acknowledged that in the past, this – the administration and the U.S. in the past did not lean into Iran very hard, they didn't demand very much of them under the agreement, and in fact, they want to do the same, so we are getting good agreement from them on leaning into Iran. Again, how the agreement serves our purpose going forward, it's kind of every 90 days we get to ask ourselves that question, and that's just something that the U.S. Congress put in place. So it is important in our view that we keep the allies with us. MS NAUERT: All right. Nicolas, since it's your last day, I think you get to have the last question. QUESTION: Thank you, a follow-up. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for this opportunity and thank you to the Department of State for these five terrific years. I think it's very important for international readership to be able to explain the complexity of the U.S. foreign policy. Just to follow up on Iran's question, are you personally in favor of mentioning the U.S. commitment to the JCPOA? And what would you respond, what would you say to element of the – of this administration, and especially the White House, who would be tempted to pull the U.S. out of the agreement? And maybe just a more personal question: Three weeks ago when you came back from the Gulf, you had a very telling and frank conversation with our colleagues. Could you describe your relationship with the President, and do you enjoy the job you are – you have been doing for six months? Thank you. SECRETARY TILLERSON: With respect to the JCPOA, I view – it's an agreement. It's an agreement that should serve Americans – America's interests first and foremost, and if it doesn't serve that interest, then why would we maintain it? Now, we have to hold the other side accountable, and I think if you read the full context of the JCPOA, it is about nuclear programs, but there's another part of that agreement that talks about the fact that with this agreement, Iran will become a good neighbor – now, I'm paraphrasing a lot of language – they'll become a good neighbor, that Iran is called upon to no longer develop its ballistic missiles. There's a lot of things that people expected would happen in agreeing to this arrangement on the nuclear program, including all the benefits that Iran would get up front. From our perspective – and that's why I say the JCPOA represents a small slice of the Iranian relationship and our view of it – and I think the general view, and I would say it's not just ours, but the view of many others is Iran has not been a good neighbor in the region, it has not stopped its ballistic missile program, and so the spirit of the agreement has been violated. Now, how do we want to translate that into what does that mean if we say the spirit of the agreement's been violated? Do we want to tear it up and walk away? Do we want to make the point to Iran that we expect you to get back in line with the spirit of the agreement and we're going to stay here and hold you accountable to it? There are a lot of – I think there are a lot of alternative means with which we use the agreement to advance our policies and the relationship with Iran. And that's what the conversation generally is around with the President as well, is what are all those options. Now, with respect to my relationship with the President, it's good. The President has repeatedly expressed his confidence in me. We have a good relationship. I talk to him just about every day. I see him several times a week. He calls me late at night on the weekends when something comes into his head and he wants to talk. He may call me at any moment at any time, but it is a very open relationship, and it's one in which I feel quite comfortable telling him my views. And he and I have differences of views on things like JCPOA and how we should use it. We have differences of – but I think if we're not having those differences, I'm not sure I'm serving him. And so that's – I would tell you the relationship between the President and myself is good. That's how I view it anyway. MS NAUERT: All right. Everyone, thank you so much. The Secretary has some meetings.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Press Conference: “The Building Is Hardly Hollowed Out”


State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert led a press briefing with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Tuesday at the Department of State. Questions transcript: MS NAUERT: Carol with The Washington Post. QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. As I'm sure you're well aware, after a very brief honeymoon you've come under a great deal of personal criticism from critics who say you've been presiding over a hollowing out of the department, low morale, and a department that seems sidelined. Could you respond directly to some of the criticism and tell us if any of it has – you have taken it to heart and changed in any way because of that criticism? SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I hope what – the little stroll I just took you around the world indicates the building is hardly hollowed out. All of that activity I was describing to you, and as I said, has been undertaken using the expertise of the people in this building. Any time you have a dramatic change in the administration, like we had six months ago, there are going to be individuals who struggle with that. And I spoke to this on the day – first day I entered the building and gave my remarks on the steps of the State Department, that I recognized that and that I hope people could put those feelings aside and commit themselves to the mission. And my observation has been that the vast majority of people in the building have done that. Has everyone done it? No. Some people are still struggling to get over that and that's – those are the voices that generally are heard. I have a very active engagement with people in the building. I meet up to three times a week with the under secretaries, the assistant secretaries; I do lunches with Foreign Service officers once a month; I do town halls, so I'm listening to people and getting a sense of how they are feeling about things. And the people that I'm coming into contact with are excited about the redesign, they're excited about hopefully getting some assistance on some areas that have troubled them for a long time, and I think they're beginning to understand that the mission of the State Department is to lead America's foreign policy, create conditions for a better, more secure U.S., more prosperous U.S., and we do that at home, we do it abroad. That mission doesn't change. The policy that we are leading is dictated by the President of the United States, who was selected by the American people. So we are working on behalf of the American people who selected this President to carry out his foreign policies, and then all of the professionalism and the skill that people have in this building to do that, they dedicate themselves to doing that. And my experience is that people – that's where people are. The ones I work with, they are very dedicated to that. Have I encountered some people on the way that didn't want to do that, couldn't do that? Yes. And we have given them permission to go do something else. And I say that not in a pejorative way, but we have had individuals who did not want to serve in a certain role, and I said fine. Find something else for them to do. I don't want to force anybody into a position they're not committed to. So we have these conversations with people. Yes, I think it's – it is to be expected that we will go through some morale issues early on. I hope as the redesign goes forward and people become more engaged in that, that there is going to be an uptick in that. I'm mindful of it, I pay attention to it. I cannot change what we're doing from a policy standpoint, if that's what's behind people's unhappiness. MS NAUERT: Rich Edson, Fox News. QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. As you go through this Iran review in the administration and there are different points of view, are you of the point of view that perhaps the JCPOA and waiving sanctions or a failure – or not waiving those sanctions could create an issue, given that the assets have already been unfrozen, coordinating with European allies potentially being a problem to try to get them to impose sanctions? And is there an avenue where the administration might seek stricter enforcement of that agreement? SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think the unfortunate aspect of the agreement is that a lot of the – a lot of the benefits to Iran for signing the agreement were up front. I mean, they kind of got the immediate payoff with the release of a lot of cash to them. They got the immediate lifting of the sanctions before they ever had to deliver on anything. And I think that's the frustrating part of this agreement is there are limited levers available to us if we're unhappy with what they're doing, other than to say we're not going to waive sanctions going forward. It is important in my view that we coordinate as much as we can with our European allies and with Russia and China, who are signatories as well, because the greatest pressure we can put to bear on Iran to change behavior is a collective pressure. We are in discussions with in particular, our European allies about their view of how Iran is doing under the agreement. They have generally acknowledged that in the past, this – the administration and the U.S. in the past did not lean into Iran very hard, they didn't demand very much of them under the agreement, and in fact, they want to do the same, so we are getting good agreement from them on leaning into Iran. Again, how the agreement serves our purpose going forward, it's kind of every 90 days we get to ask ourselves that question, and that's just something that the U.S. Congress put in place. So it is important in our view that we keep the allies with us. MS NAUERT: All right. Nicolas, since it's your last day, I think you get to have the last question. QUESTION: Thank you, a follow-up. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for this opportunity and thank you to the Department of State for these five terrific years. I think it's very important for international readership to be able to explain the complexity of the U.S. foreign policy. Just to follow up on Iran's question, are you personally in favor of mentioning the U.S. commitment to the JCPOA? And what would you respond, what would you say to element of the – of this administration, and especially the White House, who would be tempted to pull the U.S. out of the agreement? And maybe just a more personal question: Three weeks ago when you came back from the Gulf, you had a very telling and frank conversation with our colleagues. Could you describe your relationship with the President, and do you enjoy the job you are – you have been doing for six months? Thank you. SECRETARY TILLERSON: With respect to the JCPOA, I view – it's an agreement. It's an agreement that should serve Americans – America's interests first and foremost, and if it doesn't serve that interest, then why would we maintain it? Now, we have to hold the other side accountable, and I think if you read the full context of the JCPOA, it is about nuclear programs, but there's another part of that agreement that talks about the fact that with this agreement, Iran will become a good neighbor – now, I'm paraphrasing a lot of language – they'll become a good neighbor, that Iran is called upon to no longer develop its ballistic missiles. There's a lot of things that people expected would happen in agreeing to this arrangement on the nuclear program, including all the benefits that Iran would get up front. From our perspective – and that's why I say the JCPOA represents a small slice of the Iranian relationship and our view of it – and I think the general view, and I would say it's not just ours, but the view of many others is Iran has not been a good neighbor in the region, it has not stopped its ballistic missile program, and so the spirit of the agreement has been violated. Now, how do we want to translate that into what does that mean if we say the spirit of the agreement's been violated? Do we want to tear it up and walk away? Do we want to make the point to Iran that we expect you to get back in line with the spirit of the agreement and we're going to stay here and hold you accountable to it? There are a lot of – I think there are a lot of alternative means with which we use the agreement to advance our policies and the relationship with Iran. And that's what the conversation generally is around with the President as well, is what are all those options. Now, with respect to my relationship with the President, it's good. The President has repeatedly expressed his confidence in me. We have a good relationship. I talk to him just about every day. I see him several times a week. He calls me late at night on the weekends when something comes into his head and he wants to talk. He may call me at any moment at any time, but it is a very open relationship, and it's one in which I feel quite comfortable telling him my views. And he and I have differences of views on things like JCPOA and how we should use it. We have differences of – but I think if we're not having those differences, I'm not sure I'm serving him. And so that's – I would tell you the relationship between the President and myself is good. That's how I view it anyway. MS NAUERT: All right. Everyone, thank you so much. The Secretary has some meetings.

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‘State of the Union’ Panel: Trump’s Message To Muslim World; Leaving Impeachment Talk Behind?


Our State of the Union panel Bakari Sellers, Rick Santorum, Farah Pandith and Rep. Adam Kinzinger discuss President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia and look back at the turbulent week for the White House with CNN's Jake Tapper.

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Rex Tillerson Denounces Iran: “Exporting Violence… Destabilizing More Than One Country At A Time”


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered remarks on the Trump administration's Iran policy in the Treaty Room at the State Department Wednesday afternoon. "A comprehensive Iran policy requires that we address all of the threats posed by Iran and it is clear there are many," Tillerson said, listing their support for militants in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine, and their habit of harassing U.S. ships. "Just yesterday, the regime reportedly exhibited a missile marked 'death to Israel' during a military parade." "Whether it be assassination attempts, support of weapons of mass destruction, deploying destabilizing militias, Iran spends its treasure and time disrupting peace," he said, "Iran continues to have one of the world's worst human rights records. Political opponents are regularly jailed or executed, reaching the agonizing low point of executing juveniles and individuals whose punishment is not proportionate to their crimes." Tillerson said President Obama's deal with Iran was a failure and "only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state." TILLERSON: The Trump administration is currently conducting across the entire government a review of our Iran policy. Today I'd like to address Iran's alarming and ongoing provocations that export terror and violence, destabilizing more than one country at a time. Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, and is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining U.S. interests in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, and continuing to support attacks against Israel. An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it. The United States is keen to avoid a second piece of evidence that strategic patience is a failed approach. A comprehensive Iran policy requires that we address all of the threats posed by Iran and it is clear there are many. Iran continues to support the brutal Assad regime in Syria, prolonging a conflict that has killed approximately half-a-million Syrians and displaced millions more. Iran supports the Assad regime even as it commits atrocities against its own people, including with chemical weapons. Iran provides arms, financing and training and funnels foreign fighters into Syria. It has also sent members of the Iran Revolutionary Guards to take part in direct combat operations. In Iraq, Iran provides support to some Iraqi militant groups, primarily through the Quds Force, which has been undermining security in Iraq for years. Iran maintains a longstanding hostility towards Israel, providing weapons, training and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations. In deed and in propaganda, Iran foments discord. Just yesterday, the regime reportedly exhibited a missile marked "death to Israel" during a military parade. In Yemen, Iran continues to support the Houthis' attempted overthrow of the government by providing military equipment, funding and training, thus threatening Saudi Arabia's southern border. Interdictions by Emirati forces in Yemen and coalition forces in the Arabian Sea have revealed a complex Iranian network to arm and equip the Houthis. Iranian naval vessels continue to undermine freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf by harassing U.S. naval vessels that are operating lawfully. Iran has conducted cyber attacks against the United States and our Gulf partners. Iran has been behind terrorist attacks throughout the rest of the world, including a plot to kill Adul al- Jubeir who was then the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Whether it be assassination attempts, support of weapons of mass destruction, deploying destabilizing militias, Iran spends its treasure and time disrupting peace. Iran continues to have one of the world's worst human rights records. Political opponents are regularly jailed or executed, reaching the agonizing low point of executing juveniles and individuals whose punishment is not proportionate to their crimes. Iran arbitrarily detains foreigners, including U.S. citizens, on false charges. Several U.S. citizens remain missing or unjustly imprisoned in Iran. Apart from the abuses inside Iran's own borders, it is the threat it poses to the rest of the world. Iran's nuclear ambitions are a grave risk to international peace and security. It is their habit and posture to use whatever resources they have available to unsettle people and nations. With its latest test of a medium-range ballistic missile, Iran's continued development and proliferation of missile technology is in defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231. And it has previously stated it will conduct a second test flight of the Simorgh space launch vehicle which would put it closer to an operational intercontinental ballistic missile. Any discussion of Iran is incomplete without mentioning the JCPOA. The JCPOA fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran. It only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state. This deal represents the same failed approach of the past that brought us to the current imminent threat we face from North Korea. The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran. The evidence is clear: Iran's provocative actions threaten the United States, the region and the world. As I indicated at the beginning, the Trump administration is currently conducting a comprehensive review of Iran policy. Once we have finalized our conclusions, we will meet the challenges Iran poses with clarity and conviction.

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