Face the Nation August 13, 2017 Transcript: Pompeo, Panetta


CIA Director Mike Pompeo on June 16, 2017

Win McNamee / Getty Images

PLEASE NOTE: We incorrectly reported on today's broadcast that this statement was issued by Sarah Huckabee Sanders. It should be attributed to a White House spokesperson.

"The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred and of course that includes white Supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together."


JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: President Trump is tested at home and abroad.

His quick condemnation of North Korea escalates talk of a conflict, but no condemnation by the president of white nationalists after a deadly protest in a Southern city.

Charlottesville, Virginia, was the scene of clashes and tragedy, as white supremacists, including neo-Nazis and members of the KKK, protested the city's efforts to take down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Counterdemonstrators, enraged by the show of racism, clashed with the nationalists. And the day turned deadly when a car rammed into pedestrians on the city's historic downtown mall.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe condemned those who had gathered in support of the Unite the Right March.


GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA: And I have a message to all the white supremists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple. Go home.


DICKERSON: But the president who built a career on bluntness took pains to not place blame on any one group, enraging many, including some top Republicans.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.


DICKERSON: The events in Charlottesville capped a week involving a dramatic escalation of threats and counterthreats between the president and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over his country's nuclear program.


TRUMP: North Korea best not make threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen.


DICKERSON: Kim Jong-un countered with a threat to attack the island of Guam, home of a U.S. military base.

President Trump's response? Our military is locked and loaded.


TRUMP: This man will not get away with what he's doing, believe me.


DICKERSON: What's the reality of the situation, though? And just what is the president's strategy?

We will talk to the CIA director, Mike Pompeo.

Plus, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta weighs in.

And we will have analysis on the North Korean nuclear threat.

But, first, we will get a report from the scene in Charlottesville and talk to the city's mayor.

There's a lot news this week. And it's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.

President Trump faces two crises this morning. And we will be talking extensively about both.

And we begin with CBS News justice reporter Paula Reid, who was on the scene for us yesterday in Charlottesville. She joins us from city hall -- Paula.


State and city officials face tough questions today about whether they should have done more to prevent yesterday's protests from turning deadly.


REID (voice-over): White nationalist protesters and counterdemonstrators clashed violently in Charlottesville Saturday morning.

Blogger Jason Kessler had planned a so-called pro-white rally here to protest the city's efforts to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a city park. For over an hour, demonstrators threw tear gas and water bottles at one another. Police did little to intervene.

Just before noon, the governor declared a state of emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are commanded to immediately disperse.

REID: Police cleared the park, and as crowds spilled onto the streets, a car drove head on into a group of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19.

Police helicopters flew over protests all day. Late in the afternoon, a state police helicopter crashed, killing two officers.

Police have charged the driver of the car, 20-year-old Ohio resident James Alex Fields Jr., with second-degree murder. Reporters spoke with his mother yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just knew he was going to a rally. I mean, you know, I tried to stay out of his political views. I didn't it was white supremacist. I thought it had something to do with Trump.

REID: The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the attack.


REID: Fields is expected to appear in court on Monday. Things here in Charlottesville were quiet last night, and so far today -- John.

DICKERSON: Paula Reid for us in Charlottesville -- thanks, Paula.

Joining us now is the mayor of Charlottesville, Democratic Mike Signer.

Mr. Mayor, first, we want to offer our condolences to the families of the two Virginia state police officers and the family of the victim.

What can you tell us about the injured and the suspect?

MICHAEL SIGNER, MAYOR OF CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: I mean, you're -- you're speaking to the mayor of a city that's grieving right now.

We -- first of all, our thoughts and prayers are out to the families of both of those troopers and to the young woman who also perished. And we have a lot of folks who -- I think 19 are injured in the hospital right now.

So, we are -- it was a tough weekend for Charlottesville. But we're going to get through it. We're going to come through this. And, you know, so, that's where we are right now.

DICKERSON: "The Washington Post" said that the police had a -- quote -- "anemic response" -- unquote -- to the clashes.

What's your response to that? Could more have been done?

SIGNER: You know, I think that's -- that's totally mistaken.

We had the single largest assembly of law enforcement officers since 9/11, almost 1,000 law enforcement personnel. We even went as far as our city manager made a decision on the Monday before the weekend when the rally was scheduled to move the permit, the location for the rally to a larger park, a 100-acre park within the city borders, which would have provided even more speech, and would have allowed all that assembly, with armed, very -- people with very strong opinions, for this to occur longer.

That was struck down by a federal judge, who forced us to have this event in very crowded, dense downtown Charlottesville, on the eve of the event, at 9:00. So, that was a regret -- I regret that that happened.

But we had a very strong security plan in place with a lot of folks to allow people to express their views.

DICKERSON: Let me ask...

SIGNER: Unfortunately, they didn't want to do it peaceably. And so that's what happened.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about preparations you may have to make in the future.

Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, has promised to come back to Charlottesville, he said, 1,000 times.

What's your response?

SIGNER: You know, I mean, this is somebody who traffics in bluster and in intimidation. I'm not in the habit of making any decisions based on somebody who, you know, does those things.

I think we have a responsibility, as a government sworn to the Constitution, to not just allow free speech, but to protect it, as long as it's done peaceably, which is what we attempted to do this weekend.

If you have folks who are going to come in and act unpeaceably, then you are going to get unlawful assemble declared, which is just what happened yesterday.

DICKERSON: Mr. Mayor, the president said that he wanted to know what was going on in Charlottesville, and that we want to see what we're doing wrong as a country, he said.

What's your answer to that?

SIGNER: You know, I don't want to make this too much about Donald Trump.

We have a lot of grieving and a lot to do as a city and as a country. But he should look in the mirror. But he made a choice in his presidential campaign, the folks around with him, to go right to the gutter, to play on our worst prejudices.

And I think you're seeing a direct line from what happened here this weekend to those choices.

He has the opportunity, as do we all, to have a fresh beginning. Like I have said, our democracy has been through much than this, but that requires us to rise to the occasion. We're going to do that work here. We're going to work on civility and listening, deliberation, First Amendment, religious toleration, pluralism.

I mean, those ideas are what got us here now. But we have just seen this -- this tide of coarseness, cynicism, bullying, and, you know, a festival of going to the absolute worst elements that previously had been hidden. Now they have been invited out into the daylight.

I mean, a lot of people are coming here this weekend saying this will be a shot heard around the world, this will be the alt-right's moment, this will be alt-right 2.0, all that kind of rhetoric.

And I think they were -- they're getting -- they're getting OKs for that because they were invited basically into a presidential campaign.

That has to stop. And it can stop now. What I did not hear in the president's statement yesterday, as well-intentioned as it may have been, is, I didn't hear the words white supremacy.

And I think that it's important to call this for what it is, and to say, OK, this show has run its course, this shark has been jumped. Let's move on.

DICKERSON: All right, Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for being with us.

SIGNER: Thanks.

DICKERSON: And we want to welcome the director of CIA, Mike Pompeo, to the broadcast.

Welcome, Mr. Director. Thank you for being here.


DICKERSON: You have thought a lot about terrorism in your career.

Republican Senators Rob Portman, Cory Gardner, Marco Rubio, Fran Townsend, who was the terrorism adviser to George Bush, have all labeled this terrorism in Charlottesville.

What's your view?

POMPEO: Let me begin by adding my personal condolences for the lives that were lost in Charlottesville. It's an absolute tragedy.

With respect to the event, the car-ramming, we -- there's a civil rights investigation that began last evening or this morning by the Justice Department that will make a determination about whether it's appropriate to charge this as an act of terror.

I have great confidence that they will investigate that with enormous rigor and get to the right outcome.

DICKERSON: What's your personal view, though, of this? I mean, if this -- if terrorism is using violence to send a political message, do you think that's what this is?

POMPEO: Yes, I just -- I think it's best for the CIA director to leave this to the Justice Department.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you. When you were in Congress in October of 2016, three men were charged with trying to attack Muslims in your state.

And this is what you said about bigotry at the time: "We should deal with it quickly, harshly, and ensure it doesn't grow."

That was very specific and tough.

POMPEO: Yes, sir.

DICKERSON: Should the president have been that specific yesterday?

POMPEO: I think he was just as specific. He said bigotry is unacceptable, hatred is unacceptable in any form, whether that's the form that I was referring to that day in Kansas, or the events that happens yesterday in Charlottesville.

I think the president was, frankly, pretty unambiguous about what his Justice Department is going to do, the way he views how utterly inappropriate it is for this hatred and bigotry. I think the president's remarks were very clear.

DICKERSON: The criticism is that he's been tough on the media, on all kinds of people quickly and without much restraint. In this case, he said "on all sides."

People marching with Nazi flags, that's not really on all sides.

POMPEO: No, I agree. It's -- when someone marches with a Nazi flag, that's unacceptable.

And I think that's what the president said yesterday. I think -- I think he was speaking very directly to the incident there. And we have all seen the videotape. And I think he was speaking directly to that and condemning the hatred and the bigotry that was on display yesterday.

DICKERSON: All right, let's move to North Korea.

What North Korean action would trigger a U.S. military response?

POMPEO: Yes, I can't answer that.

First, it would be my decision. It will be the president's, working closely with the intelligence that we provide him. But suffice it to say, I'm familiar with the facts. We're not at an imminent risk of that taking place today.

An attack from North Korea is not something that is imminent. And the American people should know that this administration is doing everything with its power. The president has enabled the intelligence community and the Department of Defense, to be sure, that we're protecting America from this threat.

DICKERSON: You said you didn't want to weigh in what would trigger.

But the president seems -- seemed to this week, and I think that created some confusion. The president said, "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen."

That seems to be a president saying, if they make a threat, the following thing will happen.

They made a threat. Nothing happened.

Explain that to people. Wasn't that a red line he was drawing?

POMPEO: No, I don't think so at all.

In fact, this administration has done a fine job of not drawing red lines that we're not prepared to enforce. I think what the president was doing there was very effective. He was communicating to many audiences, certainly the rogue leader in North Korea, communicating to him that the strategic patience of the past decades is no longer -- we're just too close to him having this capacity to hold America at risk.

I think, secondly, he was communicating to the world, to China and to others who can influence the outcome there. We had a great success. We have the whole world voting to sanction North Korea, something that hasn't happened for an awfully long time.

This is real progress as a direct result of what President Trump has done and the way we have communicated the threat, not only to America and to Japan and South Korea, but to the entire world, from this rogue leader.

DICKERSON: Is it policy that North Korea will not be allowed to have a weapon with a nuclear warhead that can reach the United States?

POMPEO: The president has made very clear -- I'm with him.

DICKERSON: Actually, he hasn't. Can you just say it, so we can talk about it?

POMPEO: No, he has made it clear. John, he has made it very clear, John. He's made it very clear.

The president, I'm with him almost every day, giving him his daily intelligence briefing.


POMPEO: He's made very clear that the United States finds it unacceptable for a rogue leader like Kim Jong-un to have the capacity of a ballistic missile with a warhead that is integrated and fully deliverable to the United States and hold America and the world at risk.

He finds that unacceptable. He's simply not going to permit it to happen.

DICKERSON: The president was very critical of the Iraq War. He said it was the greatest blunder of American -- in American history. It was based on intelligence.

He's going to make a decision on red line you just drew on intelligence. How is he going to know the intelligence is right in this case, when he's been so critical about that previous instance when a president took action on intelligence?

POMPEO: Yes, sir.

Policy-makers are right to be critical when the intelligence community gets it wrong. And make no mistake, we've seen times in history when the intelligence community has simply gotten it wrong.

Here's the good news. And this is not me. This all happened much before -- I have been doing this only for a handful of months now. The intelligence community has done remarkable work in understanding Kim Jong-un, watching his ballistic missile program develop, watching his nuclear weapons program continue to exceed -- the intelligence there is actually very good.

And the president will be able to rely on the work that the CIA and the intelligence community provides him.

DICKERSON: Two questions about intelligence. Let's talk first about the program itself.

It seems to be moving faster than people thought. Is that right? And if so, shouldn't that be -- make people nervous about the level of intelligence, if it's moving faster than we previously thought?

POMPEO: Yes. Thanks for the question, John.

That's actually not true. It's not moving faster than policy- makers knew. As I said, you are going to have Director Panetta, and I think Mr. Morell, a former acting director, on.

It was their good work that has been tracking this all along. The intelligence community has actually had a pretty good picture. Can we predict days or weeks? No, certainly not. But we have certainly had a pretty good handle on the work that's been done to develop the system of systems.

DICKERSON: What picture do you have about the North Korean leader and his predictability? In a sense, he's following a very familiar North Korean script.


DICKERSON: And if he follows the script, doesn't that suggest that he has a plan and he's not irrational, and, therefore, wouldn't use weapons irrationally?

POMPEO: So, I have described him as rational.

One can -- one can debate that term. It has got lots of different meanings. He does respond to external stimulus. That is, we have seen that he listens to clear communications. He understands that his primary goal of staying in power, keeping the regime intact has to -- conducts a -- requires a balancing act.

And to extent we can isolate him, we can get the Russians and the Chinese and even -- you -- the president had a phone call with President Macron earlier this week. This is a global problem.

To the extent we can get the world to work on this, we will provide good intelligence, so that we can make the right decisions to get that regime to the right place, a denuclearized peninsula.

DICKERSON: The U.S. contained the Russians and has contained -- Pakistan has a nuclear weapon and has contained them.

Why not contain North Korea?

POMPEO: This regime is different. This is -- regime is different.

I heard -- I have heard some say -- I think Susan Rice said, we just need to learn to live with this. President Trump finds that unacceptable. This is -- this is not a leader for whom containment is a policy that makes sense for American national security.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about that leader.

You said on the one hand -- you said out in Aspen, "The most important thing we can do is separate these two," meaning the North Korea nuclear program from the leader.

But Secretary of State Tillerson said, "We do not seek regime change."

Those two seem to be in tension.

POMPEO: Not at all. Those are the same statement uttered by two men who used simply different words.

I was getting to the exact policy that Secretary Tillerson was. We cannot have Kim Jong-un in possession of the capacity to hold America at risk from an ICBM that is nuclear-armed. That is the mission set the president has given his national security team.

Add to that ballistic missile defense, and that is the mission that the president has demanded that his team deliver to him.

DICKERSON: All right, Mr. Director, thank you.


POMPEO: Thank you, John.

DICKERSON: Thanks for being with us.

And when we come back in a minute, we will take a closer look at the president's response to the clashes in Charlottesville yesterday.


DICKERSON: And we're back with our politics panel.

Molly Ball is a politics reporter for "The Atlantic." Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for "The National Review." Jamelle Bouie is a CBS News political analyst and "Slate" magazine's chief political correspondent. Michael Duffy is deputy managing editor for "TIME" magazine. And Ed O'Keefe covers politics for "The Washington Post."

I want to play some more of the president's statement yesterday on the events in Charlottesville.

Let's take a look.


TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.

It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It's been going on for a long, long time.

There's no place in America. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society. And no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.

No matter our color, creed, religion, or political party, we are all Americans first. We want to get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it. And we want to see what we're doing wrong as a country where things like this can happen.


DICKERSON: White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders has just issued a statement.

It reads: "The president said very strongly in his statement that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. And, of course, that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bring -- and bringing all Americans together."

Michael Duffy, I want to start with you.

That is not the way everybody took it.

And one of the people who didn't take it that way was Orrin Hatch, senator from Utah. He tweeted this: "We should call evil by his name."

This is in response to the president's remarks yesterday.

"My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home."

Where are we here?

MICHAEL DUFFY, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": Well, we're seeing a White House in motion on what happened in Charlottesville, obviously, since yesterday.

And I think we can think a little bit about John F. Kennedy, who liked to borrow liberally from Dante at times, and say the hottest place in hell is reserved for those people in times of great moral crisis who stick to the -- stick to the neutral position.

That's where the White House was yesterday. And its silence overnight was a problem. And the Republican Party, which is slowly beginning to step away from Trump for a lot of reasons, in the form of Hatch, Marco Rubio, whose parents came from -- obviously from Cuba, and others, made it very clear overnight that that was not going to be a strong enough position.

It's a moral failure not to call out actions by white nationalists or white supremacists who turn up in a college town carrying torches, shouting Nazi slogans, and carrying Confederate flags. There's no ambiguity about that.

DICKERSON: Ramesh, the president has been pretty tough on critics, calling people un-American. In this case, he said it's -- he talked about the violence and the bigotry on all sides.

Is that the problem, the moral equivalence here?

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": President Trump can be extremely specific when he wants to criticize somebody, whether it's a former FBI director, a federal judge, or the cast of the "Hamilton" musical. In the case of yesterday's statement, he was unwilling to do that. And I think the president of the United States gave white supremacists a propaganda victory by not specifically naming them yesterday. And he has still himself not specifically named them.

DICKERSON: What happens now, Molly? He might have a press conference tomorrow, is supposed to. I mean, is this a fixable problem for a president?

MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I think it's not just a political problem for the president.

I mean, it is -- I think, as Michael said, you do see increasing distance put between other Republicans and Donald Trump. This didn't have to be a story that was primarily about Donald Trump. But what you see from him is that he's obsessed with his own potential role in it.

The statement that he made, this isn't Donald Trump, this isn't Barack Obama, immediately taking this personal, personalizing it, making it a story about him and his relationship, which goes back to the very beginnings of the campaign, winking and nodding at the so- called alt-right, playing footsie with these white supremacist movements.

They themselves say they've been emboldened by the rise of Trump. And so they're not going to go away. And he has shown a clear unwillingness to tell them to go away.

DICKERSON: Jamelle, the president says he wants to find out what happened in Charlottesville and seek for the roots of this.

What's your reaction to that?

JAMELLE BOUIE, CBS NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: My, I think, reaction echoes everyone on this panel, that if you're looking for the roots of why white supremacists and neo-Nazis felt emboldened to march on a college town, you don't have to look very far from the White House.

You just have to look at Trump and his refusal to, at any stage, condemn these people, whether it's the endorsement of David Duke that he refused to condemn, whether it's the fact that he brought someone like Stephen Bannon, whose Breitbart catered to these people, into the White House.

You look at the president's behavior and, at a certain point, you're going to have to say that maybe the reason he doesn't condemn these people is because, in one way or another, he may see them as allies, see them as part of his activist base.

And that -- I don't know how one deals with that, but if you're trying to examine the roots of this, then I think -- I think you have to look there.

DICKERSON: Ed, we have about 30 seconds left. This distance with the president from Republicans, do they feel compelled to come out? I mean, who speaks to this argument? Orrin Hatch does. But does anybody pick this up, or do they just hope it goes away?

ED O'KEEFE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think, increasingly, they have hoped it would go away, because they issue these tweets or a press release, or they stop us in the hall -- we stop them in the hallway, and they say, oh, this is awful. And then they move on.

And it's just so frustrating to think that -- sometimes that they just don't do more. And you just wonder at one point the party will break and really -- really try to separate itself even further.

DICKERSON: We will do more, but we have to go now. We will be back with our panel later.

Stay with us.


DICKERSON: Coming up next, we will talk with former Defense Secretary and former CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Stay with us.


DICKERSON: And we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.



Joining us now is Leon Panetta, who served as President Obama's secretary of defense and CIA director and was also chief of staff to President Clinton. He joins us from his home in Monterey, California.

Mr. Secretary, I want to start with these two challenges for President Trump. On the one hand, increasing the rhetoric on North Korea, and now the sort of blander rhetoric with respect to Charlottesville has got him on the defensive. If you were chief of staff, what's your guidance? How would you handle these two issues?

LEON PANETTA, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, this is a very important moment in time for his administration. And I think the entire country is looking to see whether or not this president has the capability to provide strong leadership for our country at a moment of crisis. And strong leadership demands not only that he act with -- with consideration, with responsibility, with an understanding of what our country is all about and what it stands for, and with a recognition of also protecting our security. Those are all responsibilities of the president.

And the president's biggest role is the ability to use the bully pulpit to speak, not only to the country, but to the world. And, very frankly, his use of rhetoric, particularly with regards to North Korea, fire and fury, and lock and load, I think has frankly created even greater tensions in that part of the world. And his -- his failure to address what really happened in Charlottesville, and the role of white supremacists, I think also sends a message that he is not recognizing the real causes of crisis even within our own country.

DICKERSON: On the question of North Korea and the president's rhetoric, as you heard, the CIA director said that tough rhetoric is snapping North Korea into shape. They realize now that they've got somebody they can't push around. What's the -- what's wrong with that argument?

PANETTA: Well, I -- I've never felt, in the period of time that we've been dealing with North Korea going back 60 years, that you can out bully a bully by trying to threaten that individual with words. The reality is, what speaks the loudest for the United States of America is the fact that we're the most powerful country on the face of the earth, and we have the military capability to wipe that regime off the face of the earth. That's the reality.

And that, frankly, is what has been part of our strategy of containment and deterrence. The fact that we are strong, the fact that we have allies in the region, in South Korea and Japan, the fact that we have always spoken clearly about our approach to dealing with the aggressiveness of North Korea. All of that is what determines whether or not the United States and our allies can try to ensure that we do not engage in a nuclear war there.

So it just seems to me that the important thing right now is to have a president who is steady, who is calm, who's responsible, and who recognizes that the most important thing right now is to find a way to ensure that we do not get into a war.

DICKERSON: Do you see the North Koreans providing any exit ramps in the way they've behaved? And part of this issue is how the U.S. intelligence and policymakers assess the strategic thinking of the North Korean leader. How do you see it? And what should the next actions be to find a way to get off this escalation?

PANETTA: We've had a history here of 60 years of provocation and accommodation by the North Koreans, regardless of who the leader was. There's a period of time where there is provocation, and we appear to be at the point of some kind of warfare. And then there's a period of accommodation. We've been through that cycle. We're now in a period of obviously provocation.

I think the North Koreans understand that if they take the wrong step, it's the end of the regime, period. And for that reason, I think it's clear that they're going to -- they are going to allow themselves some off ramps here so that their regime does not come to an end.

But in saying that, I think that what the United States needs to do is to have a clear strategy here, not operate on a haphazard basis, but have a clear strategy of both containment and deterrence. That means strengthening our military presence. It means strengthening our support for South Korea and for Japan. It means having in place a very strong covert and overt missile defense capability. And it means employing strong diplomacy with our allies, increasing sanctions, to send a clear message that if there's any provocation from North Korea, it will spell the end of their regime, period.

DICKERSON: And finally, in 30 seconds, Mr. Secretary, what's your assessment of the speed? Is the -- is the director of the CIA right, that the speed of North Korean development here has been known and it's not a surprise to anyone?

PANETTA: Well, my sense is that they've been moving pretty -- pretty quickly in these last few years to the point that they now have an ICBM, and they're close to developing a miniaturized nuclear weapon. I think we've been following the fact that they are -- you know, they've -- they've been doing this. But I think the -- the rapid nature of how they've been able to come to that capability is something, frankly, that has surprised both the United States and the world.

DICKERSON: All right, Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for being with us.

And we turn now to CBS News senior national security contributor and former acting director of the CIA, Michael Morell, and "Washington Post" columnist David Ignatius.

Mike, I want to start with you. What questions would you be taking if you were still inside, or are you asking now about this situation?

MIKE MORELL, CBS NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: I think that the intelligence community is going to be absolutely critical to how this plays out because there's so much that we don't know. And the fundamental job of the intelligence community is to fully inform a presidential decision.

So if I were in my old job, I would take out a yellow pad and I would start writing questions that the president needs answers to. And the two questions at the top of the list are, number one, what are Kim Jong-un's intentions? The conventional wisdom is that he's trying to deter us from ever moving against him and ending his regime. I believe that's the case.

But there's also a question whether he would, once he has a nuclear weapon and the ability to deliver it to the continental United States, would he use that to try to extort us, the Japanese or South Koreans? That's very different than him just trying to deter us. So that's a fundamental question that needs to be answered.

Another question that needs to be answered is, does he have the capability today to put a U.S. city in Alaska, Hawaii, the continental United States, at risk? Is it a year from now or can he do it today? Jim Clapper, the former DNI, has said repeatedly over the last several months, we have to assume that he can do it today. So we need to take that into account when we start making our military plans.

So those are the two key questions for me.

DICKERSON: David, this week we had what seemed like very different signals, and help us straighten this out. You had the president saying fire and fury if the North Koreans make any more threats. They did. Then you had the secretary of state saying everybody should sleep soundly at night. Help us understand those two statements.

DAVID IGNATIUS, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, it was -- that was quite a passage, from fire and fury, to the sleep well. And then there were the efforts to make people think that it was all really the same policy. That was one of the things that Director Pompeo stressed in his interview with you.

Donald Trump clearly believes that in this confrontation he's the secret sauce. He's the guy whose rhetoric is going to communicate the message strongly, not just to North Korea, but to China. To the extent there is a clear strategy here, it is, make China be the intermediary, the big power in the region that brings North Korea to the table, that makes it impossible for Kim to continue with his threats. That's the strategy. Some of this rhetoric I think is intended to frighten the Chinese into taking action.

I will note one point. Everybody talks about the rhetoric being a terrible mistake. In a nuclear crisis, the idea of throwing words around scares all of us. But the U.S., it's usually been thought, doesn't really have military options for dealing with North Korea. The strange thing about the president's fire and fury and, you know, all these statements is that it's got the whole world thinking that we do have a military option and we may be about to use it.

From what I know, except for covert actions and, you know, preemptive B-52 raids, we do not have an option. We have a 45 to 60- day run-up period before we even have forces in place. So the president's rhetoric has made people think that we've got more really on the line now than we may have.

MORELL: John, there's two myths here.


MORELL: One is -- one is that we -- there is a military option. David's absolutely right. There's not. We don't know where these weapons are. We don't know where all the missiles are. We don't have enough firepower to take out all the artillery along the DMZ. So there is not a military option here which solves this problem. That's myth number one.

Myth number two is that China can solve this problem. I believe, and I think there's good evidence to back this up, that even if China wanted to use the leverage it has, it would be unlikely to sway Kim Jong-un. For Kim Jong-un, having these weapons is all about his own survival. He is not going to give them up under any pressure, even from China.

DICKERSON: So if that's the case, where do we go, David? Because Kim Jong-un's not going to give them up and Mr. -- and Director Pompeo said he must give them. That is the red line for the president.

IGNATIUS: So that's the trick of this diplomacy and that's what the Chinese will be thinking about. So it's interesting that the U.S. and China have the identical definition of the state (ph). There will be denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. They are not divided on that -- on that at all.

So the question is, how do you have a formula that achieves that over time? I keep being told, as I asked questions over the weekend, as early as this morning, don't expect a rapid denouement of this. This is going to be gradual. China, so far, is doing what we want. The administration's going to turn up the heat on China with some additional trade sanctions this week and that will seem discordant, but it's part of what they -- but they talk about a horizon that stretches into next year. They -- what they want is for Kim to stop testing missiles now.

If he shoots the missile on Tuesday at Guam, or the four missiles at Guam, I think it's then a very different ballgame. It's a deliberate escalation in the face of this rhetoric. And then, watch out.

MORELL: I just say, we need to try diplomacy. We need to try the China angle. But I think, at the end of the day, we're going to face a choice. We're going to face a choice of taking military action to try to degrade, as difficult and horrific as that would be on one end, and on the other end acceptance, containment, and deterrence. That's the choice the president is going to have to face. And his rhetoric ties him in, right, to the harder line. And if he doesn't do that, he loses credibility.

DICKERSON: And, you know, the director said the president has been clear. We went back and looked. He has tweeted this here and said that there, but it did seem today that the line is read if they have this capability.

Final question to you, David, is, containment just -- containment has been a part of U.S. policy with other countries. And in this case -- so why doesn't it work here? Is it really just all about the unpredictability of the leader? Is there a way that somebody could get to containment as a U.S. policy if, in the end, that's where negotiation leads us?

IGNATIUS: If Kim Jong-un did things that conveyed the sense that he is a more rational leader, that he is more trustworthy, I suppose you could change the calculous.

It was interesting to hear Pompeo on the one hand says, I judge him to be rational. I think he hears the messages. And on the other hand say, we can't allow this man to have weapons.

Just one point to note finally. It is estimated by the Defense Intelligence Agency that he already has up to 60 weapons. We're talking about this as if it's a future change. It's already happened. And we are living with it. And the question is, are there limits that would make it easier to live with it and sell to our allies, Japan and South Korea, so they wouldn't weapons too.

DICKERSON: All right, gentlemen, we're going to have to end it there. We will certainly be back to this.

Our political panel will be back, so, don't go away.


DICKERSON: And we're back with more from our politics panel, including the "The Atlantic's" Molly Ball, "The National Review's" Ramesh Ponnuru, "Slate" Magazine's Jamelle Bouie, "Time" magazine's Michael Duffy, and "The Washington Post's" Ed O'Keeffe.

We want to start this segment with a -- with a clip here. This is somebody talking to David Duke, the former KKK grand wizard, yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does today represent to you?

DAVID DUKE, FORMER KKK GRAND WIZARD: This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in. That's why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he's going to take our country back, and that's what we've got to do.


DICKERSON: Ed, this is the challenge for the president, is people can -- I mean he's saying the president's name there in that clip.

O'KEEFE: Yes. Look, every Republican leader since at least George H.W. Bush, of any significance, has denounced David Duke and what he stands for and what he used to do as a KKK leader. The president struggled to do this over the course of a few days during his campaign. He yet again has not done it.

This is what infuriates and scares so many people in this country that he's behaving not as the president of the United States, but the president of 36 percent, the people who support him.

Look at what he did this past week. Denounces Mitch McConnell, a Washington insider, stirs trouble with two strong men around the world, Kim Jong-un and Nicholas Maduro. Refuses, however, to denounce what Vladimir Putin did in Russia. And then said what he said yesterday and tries to equate those that were trying to denounce David Duke and his friends with what they were doing. That is what is so troubling and that is what, again, I sit here thinking, what more will it take for his party to really try to put more distance or -- and compel him, if not tomorrow, at some point soon, to come out, you know, through his words and actions, denounce this?


DUFFY: I think you can include North Korea in this. If there's a universal field theory to this week, it's that the president's quite concerned about his base. And we saw him hold his approval rating at about 40 percent for six weeks this summer, from about June 16th to about August 1st. That great 72 hours when we had the transgender tweet, and the Scaramucci blowup, and the -- the Boy Scout speech. And then you saw his disapproval drop to about 35, 36, 37, about seven to 10 percent. And that's when he realized that his base was beginning to erode. And he needs to maintain that base at all costs.

So I think that partly explains the McConnell tweet, the attacks on the foreign leaders, that the North Korean bravado and belligerence, because he know it plays well. And even yesterday he said, my people love this. Or, you know, it's on -- these are very popular things I'm saying. So I think this is my -- he is very aware of what he's doing.

BALL: But it is an insult to the 35 to 40 percent of people who still support this president to equate them with David Duke? The president implying that this is something that, you know, aligning himself with the kinds of people who did this rally is somehow going to play well. I mean David Duke ran for office in Louisiana last year and came in near dead last. This is not an -- these ideas are repugnant to the vast majority of Americans, including the vast majority of Republicans, including the vast majority of people who support Donald Trump.

I mean I was just in Alabama this week and, you know, there's a -- the president is very popular there, but the people there are not supporting the president because they believe in the ideas of David Duke and the white nationalists.

BOUIE: I'm not sure it's that's much of a binary, though, because ideas -- white supremacy -- white supremacy exists on a continuum. So you have David Duke, right, but you also have -- you know, we have to remove all these dangerous Hispanic immigrants, which is an idea that can be cloaked in sort of non-racial content. But it has racial content at its core.

So I'm not entirely -- I'm not sure that the president is necessarily wrong in sort of this instinctive analysis, right, that not coming down with a hammer on white supremacists, not coming down on the most activist part of this group of people, the president's since said not doing that helps him with people who may have softer views or some more attenuated views, but still exists on that same continuum of white reaction and white resentment.

DICKERSON: And also, I think, Ramesh, there are those who are conservatives who say, why do I have to answer for this? I -- they find neo-Nazis just as repugnant as anybody else, as a matter of just pure American citizenship.


DICKERSON: So why are they on the hook for an answer for this?

PONNURU: It's funny because you get the same basic dynamic when people -- a lot of them conservatives -- say, why aren't moderate Muslims denouncing jihadists and these -- and peaceful Muslims feel like, these aren't my people. Why do I have this obligation to act as though they are? And I do think that that -- there is something of that same psychological impulse at work among people who don't want -- who feel like they don't have to denounce these white supremacists.

We don't know exactly why President Trump is doing what he's doing and saying what he's saying. It could be a political calculation. But I do suspect that part of it is also my enemies want to link me to these people. They want to force me to do -- they're telling me I have to apologize, denounce. I'm not going to give in. I'm not going to be weak.

I do think that we know that President Trump is obsessed with the idea of projecting strength and avoiding the impression of weakness. And I do think that's probably part of what's going on.


O'KEEFE: And that's -- and that's -- and that's part of what's so confusing and frustrating about this is that he says these things and he's so vague that it allows for interpretation, forces this conversation, and then has three different administration officials out this morning saying different things and clarifying and explaining what he said (INAUDIBLE).

DICKERSON: A man who built his career on not being vague, being quite specific.

O'KEEFE: Exactly.

DICKERSON: Jamelle, you want to --

BOUIE: I think it's worth saying, just about the president's statement though. Towards the end he says, we have to cherish our history. In the context of an event that was held to defend confederate statues in Charlottesville, Virginia, to say we need to cherish our history, to me sounds like a dog whistle to the unite the right demonstrators. So that -- that would be my piece of evidence for this (INAUDIBLE) insults (ph).

PONNURU: And the dog was hearing the whistle.

BOUIE: Right. Exactly.

PONNURU: The dogs are hearing the whistles.

DICKERSON: Right, because -- because they argue that keeping the General Lee statue in the park is a part of cherishing history.

BOUIE: Right. Right.

DICKERSON: Michael Duffy, you wrote about the new chief of staff this week. Where'd -- I mean is this something a chief of staff can take a handle of? What is a chief of staff to do in this kind of --

DUFFY: Well, he's a Marine, he's not a miracle worker, let's, you know -- but being too loud and too strident and to belligerent on North Korea in the same timeframe that you're being too silent on Charlottesville suggests that they have a long way to go to get the president -- well, to manage his messaging certainly and obviously to talk to him about it.

By the way, I was really struck -- and I -- just to go back to why I think North Korea's tied into this general, kind of, you called it a dog whistle, but broadcasting to his base. Pompeo said to you just 20 minutes ago, this is not an imminent risk today. And that -- you would never know from what -- reading the president's tweets about -- or statements, excuse me, about North Korea this week. So he's turning up this volume himself.


DUFFY: You know, there were sanctions this week by the U.N. Those were put in place. They did -- we learned -- we learned, those of us, you know, learned that it was -- they could miniaturize a nuclear weapon. But I presume the government had known for some time. We were not the first to hear about this.

So even in important, geopolitical matters, he is using his mouthpiece in a way that I think is really aimed at some part of his core supporters at a moment when he's feeling under pressure.

DICKERSON: Molly, the president also criticized Mitch McConnell. Doesn't he need Mitch McConnell as the Senate leader?

BALL: Well, and from what I understand, McConnell is not exactly taking this personally. But there's a clear attempt to deflect blame. And this is another of Donald Trump's signature personality characteristics that we've seen over and over again.

His agenda is flailing. Washington isn't getting anything done. And so his impulse, rather than trying to exert some kind of leadership, or be more involved in the process, is to separate himself from the mess and point the finger at his own party.

This is somewhat distressing to the members of his party who are going to be on the ballot a lot sooner than he is. But we do increasingly see him turning on Republicans in Congress, turning on McConnell and saying it's your fault, you couldn't get this done for me.

And my experience, talking to Trump supporters in West Virginia and Alabama the other -- the last couple weeks, they've -- they're hearing that message. They are not blaming Trump for this.

PONNURU: Look, McConnell started this particular round of things by criticizing Trump over the health care debacle in a way that didn't actually make any sense. You know, and the fact of the matter is, this was a cause that Republicans took up long before Trump. It was congressional Republicans who didn't have a plan going. It was McConnell who was more involved in it than Trump was. And, of course, everything we know about Trump is, if you come out and criticize him, he's going to attack you back.

So, yes, this doesn't make a lot of strategic sense for President Trump, but what McConnell did started this entire fight in a way that makes no sense for him.

O'KEEFE: And --

DICKERSON: Right. I'm afraid, Ed, we're going to have to end it there.

That's it for us for the moment. We'll be right back. Stay with us.


DICKERSON: Be sure to tune in tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on CBS for "CBSN On Assignment," with behind the scenes access to the U.S. military bases in Guam and South Korea

We'll be right back.


DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson.