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tv   Hugh Hewitt  MSNBC  August 5, 2017 5:00am-5:31am PDT

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et stuff. what's it mean for shipping? ship the goods. you're a go! you got the green light. that means go! oh, yeah. start saying yes to your company's best ideas. we're gonna hit our launch date! (scream) thank you! goodbye! let us help with money and know-how, so you can get business done. american express open. morning glory america. i'm hugh hewitt. you hear me monday through friday on the salem radio network. every saturday morning you hear me right here on msnbc. my guest this morning is in many headlines right now. lieutenant general h.r. mcmaster is president trump's national security adviser. in his long career as a warrior, he's received the silver star and two bronze stars and fought in both iraq wars and in afghanistan, has made him one of the most experienced voices
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around president trump. it has also made him a target most recently of a tiny slice of the so-called alt right and a legion of russian bots that have alleged a number of screw ball things about him. so relentless has been the nattering against the general that president trump put out a statement about him last night saying, quote, general mcmaster and i have working very well together. he is a good man and very pro israel. i'm grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country. so what does general mcmaster think and what sort of advice is he giving the president? i sat down with him midweek for a wide-ranging interview. later in the program, i'll ask bloomberg's eli lake who mcmaster critics are and why they're so indifferent to the president's views. first the interview, the first two subjects are the crisis in venezuela and the challenges posed by iran, specifically the obama administration's nuclear deal with iran. here is the beginning of that interview. >> your old friend, admiral
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james stavridis said on wednesday there's going to be a violent civil war, massive refugees and any military intervention in that country would have to come from colombia and/or brazil. do you agree with those three assessments? >> i think his assessment is right. democracy is over right now in venezuela. people ask can there be a coup. there has been a coup. >> reporter:. madura has prevented the venezuelan people with having a say. it's a fab lick for the venezuelan people suffering all kinds of deprivations based on the failed policies of two regimes now. it's really a situation that's intolerable from the venezuelan people's perspective. what we're endeavoring to do is work with partners in the region and work on behalf awful the venezuelan people to help rescue them from this take state tore ship. >> do you see a military enter
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veengs from any outside source? >> i don't think so. i think what's really required is for everyone to have one voice about the need to protect the rights and the safety of the venezuelan people. >> if there is an intervention, general, does maduro possess the potential to become the new castro, even more dangerous than castro was in '62? it's a bigger country, a richer country. >> there are bigger consequence, mainly for the swen swale land people. we know he's drawing very heavily on support from the cubans. he also has the chinese and russians underwriting this failed regime, this augt thorn dictatorship now. there are regional security implications as well, as we already see every day, devastating consequences for the venezuelan people. >> venezuela also has a long history with iran. there are reports that irans have back and forth with them.
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any idea if the iranian revolutionary guard forces are in venezuela? >> it wouldn't be surprising. of course, their priorities are elsewhere, what they've done to light the middle east on fire, to flame this very destructive cycle of sectarian violence in the middle east. that's what i think we have to hold the rigc accountable for, pull the kurt tan back on their subversive activities across the middle east. >> if there are revolts in the street on sunday and beyond, they were ruthless, they cut it down. would you expect maduro's government do the same thing with demonstrations? >> he's already doing it. they're already brutally repressing the venezuelan people. you see these gangs of thugs. legitimate security forces are a tool -- they use security forces
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as a tool of oppression. even you're seeing it become more and more likely and more and more routine is the use of these gangs of thugs as an extension of an oppressive or authoritarian regime. you see this in iran in the form of what's called the besiege. you see this with these gangs of thugs in venezuela as well. >> do you want to rule out completely, does the president rule out completely no matter what the situation is, pulling a panama as president herbert walker bush did? >> there's a long history in the region of american intervention and that's caused problems in the past. i think we're very cognizant of the fact that we don't want to give this regime or others the opportunity to say, well, you know, this isn't the problem with the maduro, this is the yankees doing this, they're the cause of the problem. you've seen ma dur roe have some lame attempts at trying to do that already. i think it's important for us to place responsibility for this catastrophe on maduro's
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shoulders. he's the one who has caused it and the one who perpetuated it. >> let's go to iran which i mentioned already. has secretary mattis, president trump and you decided on clear rules of engagement for when the iranian ships approach our ships in the gulf? >> yes, there are very clear rules of engagement. >> would it be surprising for us to have to sink one of those vessels very soon? >> well, our captains, our naval officers and leaders are strong leaders who are disciplined, and they will do everything they can to advance our interests, to protect their sailors and to defend themselves if necessary. the president has made it very clear, he will never question any of our military leaders if they take actions to defend themselves and their shoulders, sailors, airmen and marines. >> is the report correct that the president wants out of the iranian nuclear deal? >> the president is more than skeptical about that deal. he calls it the worst deal ever, and in many ways it was the
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worst deal ever because it did -- it rewarded the regime, gave them so much up front. and what happened was iran began immediately to violate the spirit of that agreement which was meant not only to prevent this horrible regime that has been victimizing so many people across the greater middle east and beyond, their support for brutal proxy forces, their support for the assad regime who has gassed and murdered his own people in large numbers, the support for hamas, support for hezbollah and how that's created so much mayhem in the region for these houthi rebels in yemen, for example. a regime that caused so much human suffering already, to get them to moderate their behavior. they did the opt sit of that, intense tiesed their destabilizing behavior across the region. the president is strong about this when he says the main point
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to focus on is iran vie rate lated the spirit of the agreement. we crafted a strategy along with like-minded nations, allies, partners, to counter iran's destabilizing behavior. while we still aim to prevent, by whatever means necessary to do so, iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. >> i don't like the agreement. a lot of people don't like the agreement. the president doesn't like the agreement. but if we leave precipitously without a legitimate reason to do so, won't that undermine our ability to make other agreements in other places? is that what's holding us in there even though they're violating the spirit of it? >> i think what's holds us in there right now is our determination as to the degree of which they're violating the letter of the agreement. they have in the past. too much heavy water, too many centrifuges running. when we go to the iaea to enforce the agreement, they've taken remedial measures. of course, what they're doing, they're stepping over that line.
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we have to be very clear, all the signatories have to be clear that, if you violate the agreement, there are going to be consequences and we can't adhere to an agreement if the main party here, iran, is violating it. >> next review is in 90 days. do you think the president is going to stay in the agreement in 90 days? >> these reviews that come up every 90 days, these are internal reports to our congress. they're reeflly two separate issues. do we certify that iran is adhering to the deal and we're looking very hard at their adherence to it with our partners and other signatories to the jcpow, the iran nuclear deal. there's also the question of whether or not you stay in the agreement based on violations. >> any prediction? >> no predictions at all. we're not prejudging this. we're working hard at it every day. we're working hard on it as part of a broader approach to the problem of eye van.
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iran's destabilizing behavior, the humanitarian and political catastrophe they're helping to perpetuate along with those others responsible including isis and other terrorist groups in the region. i think iran is behaving in a way that you can say is aimed at keeping the arab world perpetually weak and enmeshed in conflict so they can use this chaotic agreement in the middle east to advance their hegemonic games, their desire to dominate in the region. >> should the supreme leader be surprised if the president withdraws from this agreement in the next six months, three months? would it be a shock to him? >> i don't think it would be a shock to him or to anybody because the president has made clear that he will judge whether or not iran is sticking to this agreement based on the merits, and this president is not afraid to do what he sees is right for the security of the american
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people. i'll be right back with general h.r. mcmaster on whether or not we are on the brink of war with north korea when we return. rethink what's possible. rethink your allergy pills. flonase sensimist allergy relief helps block 6 key inflammatory substances with a gentle mist. most allergy pills only block one. and 6 is greater than one. flonase sensimist. ♪ if they knew just howers rich they were.ed the average american home value has increased $40,000 over the last 5 years.
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i'm back. if you're just joining us, my guest is general h.r. mcmaster, president trump's national security adviser. the subject is north korea. yes, the possibility of war. >> at the aspen institute ten days ago, chairman of the joint chiefs joe dunford said there's always a military option. lipid say graham said we need to destroy the reg eej. secretary tillerson said to north korea, you're leaving us no choice but to protect ourselves. the chairman, the chief of staff of the army said just because
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every choice is a bad choice doesn't mean you don't have to choose. are we looking at a preemptive strike. are you trying to prepare us? are you being collectively and people like lipid say graham and tom cotton, preparing us for a first strike at north korea? >> what you're asking is are we preventing plans for a war, a war that would prevent north korea from threatening the united states with a nuclear weapon. the president has been very clear about it. he said he's not going to tolerate north korea being able to threaten the united states. look at the nature of that regime, if they had nuclear weapons that can threaten the united states, it's intolerable from the president's perspective. of course, we have to provide all options to do that, and that includes military option. would we like to resolve it short of what would be a very costly war in terms of the suffering of mainly the south korean people, the ability of the north korean regime to hold the south hostage to conventional fires capabilities,
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seoul being so close. we're cognizant of all of that. what we have to do is everything we can to pressure this regime, to pressure kim jong-un and those around him such that they conclude it's in their interest to denuclearize. i think three critical things came out of the president's very successful summit with president xi of china that were different, that were different from past efforts to work with china, which has always been the desire, right, to work with china on the north korean problem. the three things that came out of that are, first of all, that north korea, kim jong-un, armed with nuclear weapons, is a threat not only to the united states, not only to our great allies, japan and south korea, but also to china. so that's a big acknowledgment. the second thing was that the goal, the goal of working together with them cannot be the freeze for freeze, where we freeze our training and then
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they freeze their program. they're at a threshold capability now. freeze for freeze doesn't work anymore. it's intolerable. the goal is denuclearization of the peninsula. that's the second big thing. the third big thing that came out of it is china acknowledged they have tremendous coercive economic influence here. they may not have a great political relationship with kim jong-un, who does these days? they recognize that they do have a great deal of agency and control over that situation. and so we are prioritizing, secretary of state in the lead obviously, prioritizing an effort to work with the chinese. as the president has said, as the president has tweeted, we also have to be prepared to walk down a path that assumes not as much help from china as we would like. >> that would mean back to a preemptive strike or some action against kim jong-un. should he will sleeping easily at night? >> i think he should not be.
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he has the whole world against him. he's isolated, isolated on this. since 1953 the korean peninsula has been in a state of armistice. the war never formally ended. there's been no aggression, no aggression from the united states, south korea, any of our allies. >> if he were removed, general, would the regime's behavior change, if that one individual were removed? >> i'm not sure about that. i don't think anybody has a very clear picture of the inner workings of that regime. what is clear is it is an authoritarian dictatorship that has existed since the end of world war ii. it's now in its third generation, and there's a difference in this third autocratic ruler in that he's as brutal as the previous two have been but he's doing some things differently, he's killing members of his own family. what this means for the future of that regime, i think it's really almost -- it's impossible
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to pre death. >> is it legitimate to attempt to achieve regime change by the removal of one leader of the eej eem? >> i think it depends on the legal justification for that, and this goes back to, you know just war theory and what is the nature of the risk and does that risk justify acting in defense of your people and your vital interests. >> we know the risk a little bit. in 1994 when the first north korean deal was signed, the people who executed it wrote a book and quoted a general saying, if there's a conflict, called "going critical," there will be a million casualties. is that still a good estimate of what happens if a preemptive strike unfolds in north korea, general? >> one thing about war, it's impossible oftentimes to predict. it's always impossible to predict the future course of
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events because war is a continuous interaction of opposites, continuous interaction between your forces and those of the enemy. it involves not just the capability to use force but also intentions and things that are unknowable at the outset. i think it's important to look at a range of estimates of what could happen because it's clear that in war it's unpredictable. you always have to ask the question, what happens next, what are the risks, how do you mitigate those risks? obviously war is the most serious disney leader has to make. so what can we do to make sure we exhaust our possibilities, exhaust our other opportunities to accomplish this very clear objective of denuclearization of the peninsula short of war. >> if we were to go into a preemptive strike, general mcmaster, of some sort, large, small, whatever, would we tell the chinese before we did that in order to manage their expectations and limit the possibility of a replay of the korean war?
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>> i can't really talk about any details associated with operational plans or strategies, but -- it would depend on the circumstances. >> have you sat with the president and walked through how china might or might not react to a preemptive strike and how they unpredictly entered the war in the first korean war. >> as a rule we don't talk about deliberations with the president. he's been very much involved and has been deeply briefed on all aspects of the strategy on north korea. >> how concerned should the american people be that we are actually on the brink of a war with north korea? >> i think it's impossible to overstate the danger associated with this. i think it's impossible to overstate the danger associated with a rogue, brutal regime. murdered his own brother with nerve agent in an airport. think about what he's done in terms of his own brutal
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repression of, not only members of his regime, but his own family. >> reuters had a story earlier, two officials confirmed that the icbms could reach anywhere in the united states. can you confirm that, general? >> no. i'm not going to confirm it. as i mentioned, whether it could reach san francisco or pittsburgh or washington, how much does that matter? it's a grave threat. >> does south korea need its own nuclear deterrent? >> this is what's an important -- this is a very important question. of course, it's u.s., united states extended deterrence, nuclear deterrence extended to our allies that has been the key to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. if that regime is broken, that non-proliferation regime is broken, it's bad news for everybody. so imagine now northeast asia with a nuclear armed north
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korea, south korea, japan, china, russia. >> pakistan and india. >> so is that what china wants? is that what russia wants? no. so it is in all of our interests to ensure that north korea denuclearizes. >> when we return, iturn general mcmaster's attention to afghanistan where nbc news has been reporting a deep divide between the president and his generals. stay tuned. for your heart...
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welcome back. earlier this week nbc news reported on growing tension between president trump and his national security team over the afghanistan policy. i asked national security adviser general h.r. mcmaster about the war in afghanistan. >> what we have is a number of decisions the president has made. he has said i want the
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prioritize the safety and security of the american people, and he wants to destroy isis wherever they are. there's a tremendously successful campaign going on with afghan sources in the lead, an underreported campaign in nag har province. the president has said he doesn't want to place restrictions on the military that undermine our ability to win battles in combat. he has lifted those restrictions and you're beginning to see the payoff of that as well. the president has also made clear that we need to see a change in behavior of those in the region which includes those who are providing safe haven and support for the taliban. this is pakistan in particular, that we want to really see a change and a reduction of their support for these groups. this is, of course, very paradoxical situation where pakistan is taking great losses. they fought very hard against
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these groups, but they've done so really only selectively. he's also said others have to share the burden. >> there have been some hard hits in kabul. do you have confidence with general nicholson, the commander in afghanistan? >> of course. i've known him for many years. i can't imagine a more capable commander. >> does secretary mattis and the president? >> absolutely. >> does the president have some concern with minerals and china's exportation where they're taking the wealth of the country -- >> sure. this is something that i think the president has focused all of us on, is that if the united states is going to invest blood and pressure on behalf of partners, am lies, we ought to expect favorable treatment or at least equal treatment with competitors economically. this is not to extract anything, but this is just to ensure that if we're engaged with partners
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from a security perspective, to solidify that relationship, we ought to have a mutually beneficial economic relationship as well. >> you'll recall that president obama froze in his afghanistan review at the beginning of his administration. president trump doesn't want to compare unfavorably with that. when is the decision coming from the strategery, to use a quote from your old boss, george w. bush. >> the president has already made important decisions on afghanistan. >> troop levels. >> we're in the going to talk tactics anymore. everything before was troop levels and very specific details, announcing to the enemy years in advance exactly the number of troops you're going to have, exactly what they're going to do and not going to do. so the president has said that is not the way to fight a war. it never has been. >> don't look for an announcement of what we're going to be doing there. >> yes. >> don't you need that to sell
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it to the american people? >> no. i think there are two things that the american people ought to understand and that we all have to talk about. the first is what is at stake? what are the stakes in afghanistan? and the second is, what is the strategy that secures an outcome consistent with the vital interest of the american people and an outcome that is worthy of the sacrifices that our servicemen and women are making and the tremendous efforts and the risk that they take. so that's the answer that you'll hear, the answer you've heard in pieces. what we're endeavoring to do is pull this altogether in a regional strategy that makes sense, so our secretary of state has laid a very strong foundation for this. what we've had in afghanistan for years is a kiss connected strategy. what we're doing military li is disconnected from what we're doing politically. you say to the taliban, let's see what we can do to accommodate some of your concerns so wean

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