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Week In Politics: What's Next After The U.S.-North Korea Summit


Here to weigh in on all these topics and more - our Friday political commentators E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution. Hey there, E.J.

E J DIONNE, BYLINE: Great to be with you.

CORNISH: And David Brooks of The New York Times, welcome back.

DAVID BROOKS, BYLINE: Good to be here.

CORNISH: So briefly I want to touch on this inspector general report which essentially disputes the president's claim that the FBI was biased against him, right? They say that that's not true. But it seems like the president is - makes a lot of effort to shape the conversation about this investigation or frankly anything that has the word investigation in it. So, David, what was your thought as you were hearing the president's comments?

BROOKS: Well, everybody got the report they wanted. The Republicans saw the FBI emails and decided Mueller - whole investigation is tainted. And if Trump fires Mueller, it seems pretty likely he'll have the whole Republican Party on his side. The Democrats seized on the Comey judgment that Comey acted wrongly in disclosing the investigation to Hillary Clinton, and that seems to have tipped the election. I would hope that the Democrats who are mad at Comey embrace the idea there should be some secrecy in government, which is an idea they haven't embraced.

I think the core issue, though, is that the FBI - the investigations basically were fair and on the merits. And so for all the mistakes that surround it, the report found that, you know, we have a lot of professionals in the FBI who are basically doing their job reasonably well.


DIONNE: It was two emails versus 500 other pages in the report is the way I see it. I mean, I see two real messages of this report - that in the end, the FBI hurt Clinton and thus helped Trump even if that wasn't its intent. And B, it also showed that the Republicans' ongoing effort to work the refs by attacking the FBI and other institutions succeeded. Comey decided to have that news conference with the - which the inspector general's report said was extraordinary and insubordinate and had other words criticizing it because he was worried about what the Republicans would say about him.

And similarly, the report was very critical of his leaking that information about new emails in October that turned out not to be new emails so that - I think what you've got to do is put this report together with Trump's efforts now to continue to attack the investigation and continue to attack the FBI because this inspector general's report tells us those attacks have worked for Republicans.

CORNISH: I want to touch on the summit with North Korea 'cause in any other week, that would be a big deal.


CORNISH: It was a historic summit. After generations of isolation, a North Korean leader came face-to-face and on equal footing with a U.S. president.


SUPREME LEADER KIM JONG UN: (Through interpreter) Old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward. But we overcame all of them, and we are here today.


CORNISH: And that's through a translator, the words of Kim Jong Un. We heard Scott Horsley's piece. The president thinks that this issue is over and won despite the fact that there's no information on how, when or under what supervision North Korea would dispense nuclear weapons. E.J., briefly, do you think this was the success that the president describes?

DIONNE: I actually think The Economist in their new issue really captured it well. Their headline is Kim Jong won. And I think that...

CORNISH: That's W-O-N.

DIONNE: W-O-N indeed, and that the president gave up a lot. First, he gave the legitimacy of the meeting. Second, he praised him in an almost obscene way. I thought particularly when he talked about his people loving him with fervor. You know, gulags produce a lot of fervor, but also he gave up the military maneuvers with South Korea without telling South Korea. And so I think the best scenario is that the president doesn't actually believe what he said about the nuclear problem being solved because it's not solved. And there's a long, long way to go. I suppose I should say better talks than nuclear war, and I'll say that.

CORNISH: David Brooks...

DIONNE: But the rest...

CORNISH: ...Is that something you can agree on maybe?

BROOKS: I'm the peacenik here.


BROOKS: You know, I basically - you know, people who really knew North Korea seven - eight months ago were really, genuinely scared. And they felt we were in a horrific collision course, and we're not anymore. And so that's to me the big picture here. So to me, this is a step forward. Did Trump do it in the worst possible way - yes.

DIONNE: (Laughter).

BROOKS: The things he said about the dictator being a tough guy when he's a mass murderer and the giving away of the war games and all that sort of stuff is the worst possible way to do it. But the fact is when you have an unwinnable situation with no good options, kicking the can down the road is sometimes the best you can do. And so he succeeded in kicking the can down the road. And that's what administrations have always done. And someday North Korea will decide they can't be an outlaw state forever whose economy is entirely dependent on China, and they'll change. And it's up to the U.S. just to, like, delay until that moment.

DIONNE: I've got to say that I think if our choice is between a big war or poorly executed diplomacy, we've really lowered our standards.

BROOKS: Yeah, I've totally lowered my standards.



BROOKS: Just to make that clear.

DIONNE: Thank you for that.

CORNISH: Yes, (unintelligible).

DIONNE: I appreciate that.

CORNISH: OK. Last issue, immigration - the president has been falsely claiming that it is law to separate parents who were charged with illegal border crossing from their children. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders both attempted to invoke biblical teachings to justify this. In our last minute, who wants to jump on that?

BROOKS: Well, of course...

CORNISH: If there's a verse you want to point, let me know.

BROOKS: Of course in the Bible it says be cruel to the refugee. That's all throughout the Bible. You know, I just think...

CORNISH: I think they were talking about law, I think...

BROOKS: Right.

CORNISH: ...And governments.



BROOKS: I would say - just say it's what happens when you take compassion out of your policy, and you end up separating families. And it's not quite Abu Ghraib, but it does make you a little ashamed to be an American.

DIONNE: You know, Stephen Colbert took the same book in the Bible that Jeff Sessions quoted, and he went on to say - Jeff Sessions quoted the part about observing law. And a few lines later, it's the law is rooted in love. And there is something profoundly cruel and really astonishing about a family-values party separating children from their parents. And this is a matter of policy. This is cruelty as a matter of policy because, earlier, Sessions said that this is designed to send a message that if you bring your kids over, then we will take them away from you. That's a really scary thing for the United States of America to be doing.

CORNISH: At the same time, there's been so much focus on the wall. Did his voters want this?

BROOKS: Yeah, well, there's - one thing we've learned about primaries and everything else in the political developments in the last year is that Donald Trump is more popular than the Republican Party. And going against Donald Trump in any way is political suicide for Republicans. So you have to think they just want to stop immigration. And if cruelty is part of it, that's an acceptable price. You'd have to draw that conclusion.

DIONNE: I'd like to have a higher opinion of Trump voters. That's something...


DIONNE: ...I say all the time on this show. I can't believe that all Trump voters out there are pleased with this policy because it goes against so many of the other values that they uphold. At least I hope that's the case.

BROOKS: And it's true that a lot of the evangelical, pro-Trump churches have come out against this.

CORNISH: I'm sure we'll be talking about this more in the coming weeks. David Brooks of The New York Times, thank you so much.

BROOKS: Thank you.

CORNISH: And E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution, thank you. Have a good weekend.

DIONNE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF WYNTON MARSALIS'S "WE SEE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.