Transcript: Former Ambassador Susan Rice on "Face the Nation," June 10, 2018

President Trump arrived in Singapore on Sunday ahead of this week's historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He flew to Singapore straight from a meeting of the G7 nations in Canada, one that turned contentious over Mr. Trump's trade demands of Western allies.

Susan Rice served as U.N. ambassador and national security adviser in the Obama administration. She joined us to discuss U.S. goals at the Singapore summit, Mr. Trump's comments about Russia and more.

The following is a transcript of the interview with Rice that aired Sunday, June 10, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to President Obama's national security adviser and former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. Ambassador it's good to have you here on Face the Nation.

FORMER UN AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE: Great to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is a historic summit. For you, what do you think the best possible outcome could be?

AMBASSADOR RICE: I think the best possible outcome is that we have more than a photo op or even a cordial conversation, but the two leaders agreed to some very concrete steps that they can then pass on to their negotiators in the form of a framework that the negotiators can then flesh out into a substantive agreement. It's going to take quite a while. This is very complicated set of issues and success can't be declared on the basis of a happy meeting.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Obama liked to embrace diplomacy. Why did he choose not to try to negotiate with Kim Jong Un?

AMBASSADOR RICE: Well in fact there were efforts at discussions we had them during the Clinton administration, we had them during the Bush administration, and we even had opportunities and efforts during the Obama administration. The problem is that at every turn the North Koreans would make commitments and then break them and we need to be mindful that that is again what might happen in this context.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But this is a different diplomatic structure right? It's flipped on its head. You're starting with--

AMBASSADOR RICE: Starting with the leaders

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the leaders.

AMBASSADOR RICE: Yeah. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So do you give the president some credit for being willing to take this high level of risk?

AMBASSADOR RICE: Well, I think- you know it's clear that the past set of efforts have not succeeded. I am a believer in diplomacy and I am open to- to new methods of trying to accomplish the- the consistent objective that we have of full denuclearization. I think the question is are we walking in prepared? Are we walking in with our allies behind us? Are we in a position to understand that one meeting it's not going to be one and done. This is the start of a serious negotiating process.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The former director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper just wrote a book and he was very public about what he said was his personal disagreement with President Obama's decision not to engage with Kim Jong un in North Korea. Other Obama administration officials have told me they wished and they regret not taking stronger action. You were the national security adviser. Do you take ownership of that? Do you regret not pushing harder?

AMBASSADOR RICE: Well I think you're mixing two things. There's the question of sitting down at the negotiating table and there's the question of pushing harder.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right and Clapper said--

AMBASSADOR RICE: And it was during--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --engagement period he thought Obama should have done more of.

AMBASSADOR RICE: So my view is that we did and we should have increased the pressure on North Korea incrementally. I myself negotiated for tough security council resolutions, imposing increasingly harsh penalties on North Korea. My successor, Ambassador Power, did the same. Ambassador Haley has continued that effort and we have layered on increasing pressure. I think that's appropriate. We in fact during the Clinton-- during the Obama administration had the opportunity. You recalled the Leap Day negotiations where we tried to sit down and tried to work on an arrangement with the North Koreans and they blew it up on the spot. So I don't think it's accurate to say they weren't diplomatic efforts and in fact Jim Clapper himself went to North Korea. The fact of the matter is that I believe the North Koreans were not prepared to be serious under Kim Jong Un, with respect to sitting at the table until they perfected their nuclear program and their missiles.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't think--

AMBASSADOR RICE: So what has changed

MARGARET BRENNAN: --a diplomatic breakthrough would have been possible in the Obama administration because of that goal?

AMBASSADOR RICE: I think that the critical thing from the North Korean point of view was to be able to come to the negotiating table when they did come with having demonstrated to the world that their nuclear capacity and their missile capacity has been perfected and that's in fact what Kim Jong Un said.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've been outspoken about Russia of late. And I want to ask you about something very specific here that President Trump just said. He is calling for Russia to be readmitted into the G-8, which of course was pushed out of -during the Obama Administration because of their intervention in Ukraine

AMBASSADOR RICE: Their invasion of Cri-,

MARGARET BRENNAN: Seizing Crimea-

AMBASSADOR RICE: --of Ukraine

MARGARET BRENNAN: -and annexation, of

AMBASSADOR RICE: - of Crimea. Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. And so he said yesterday - again that he would like to see Russia be part of the G8 and he basically recognized Russia's claim to Crimea as legitimate. Here's what he said.

DONALD TRUMP: Crimea was let go during the Obama Administration, and, you know Obama can say all he wants but he allowed Russia to take Crimea. -I may have had a much different attitude. But so you really have to ask that question to President Obama, you know, why did he do that? why did he do that?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you like to respond?

AMBASSADOR RICE: It's a disgraceful statement. The fact of the matter is Russia - had invaded Georgia. It then invaded Ukraine. We rallied the entire - European Union and many other partners to impose tough sanctions on Russia for its annexation. We supported the Ukrainian government to build up its a- defensive military capacity, and along with our G7 partners we agreed that Russia should no longer be part of this community--

--of the G8

MARGARET BRENNAN: He seems to be saying but Russia still- it was a fait accompli.

AMBASSADOR RICE: Well--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That they still hold on to that territory.

AMBASSADOR RICE: --it's that's outrageous. I mean the United States has long upheld international law. This was the most brazen violation of another country's sovereignty that's occurred in recent years. For the president of the United States to blame his predecessor rather than to understand that Russia is our adversary. Russia has taken on behavior that is absolutely reprehensible, including being responsible for shooting a civilian aircraft out of the skies and killing hundreds of people. For the president the United States to suggest that all is forgotten, that that doesn't matter, that we are fine with one country annexing another country's sovereign territory, and we should just welcome them with open arms back into a community of democracies is outrageous.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's interesting that this Russia policy has made- has made some-- unusual bedfellows. In fact Senator McCain tweeted yesterday rebuking President Trump saying, "To our allies, bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro free trade, pro globalization, supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you even if our president doesn't." He's commenting on what he was upset with with the president's rhetoric at the G7. Are you surprised to find yourself in agreement with Senator McCain?

AMBASSADOR RICE: No there have been other occasions when I've agreed with Senator McCain and occasions when I've disagreed, but he's absolutely right. The United States, our leadership in the world, our national security, has long depended on having close and- unbreakable bonds with our closest allies. The G7 partners are our closest allies in the world. We share values, we share interests, we share security. And for the president of the United States to walk into that session and to essentially blow it up and disrespect our allies while embracing -Russia - and- an- and giving benefits to China, countries that are not our allies, and in the case of Russia, indeed our declared adversary is very worrisome and very destructive and it leaves the United States isolated in the world and our allies wondering if they can count on us and we are on them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ambassador Rice, thank you for joining us.

AMBASSADOR RICE: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we'll be back in one minute with the president's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow who is just back from the G7 meeting in Canada. Despite all the smiles you see in that photo was it as contentious as the president's Twitter feed suggested?  We'll ask him.