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World

Former National Security Adviser On Russia Investigation And Trump Foreign Policy

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

So yes, it was another tumultuous week in Washington. And though it seems lost in the mists of time, on Tuesday - only Tuesday - President Trump unceremoniously also fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. Here to talk about where that leaves America's foreign policy and diplomacy is former national security adviser Stephen Hadley. He worked under President George W. Bush. Welcome to the program, sir.

STEPHEN HADLEY: Nice to be here. Thanks very much for including me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So before we get to foreign policy, I'd first like to ask you about your reaction to the president tweeting yesterday that there was, quote, "tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice and State." You've worked so closely with those entities. What's your response to that?

HADLEY: Well, my experience has been that the FBI is a very professional organization. There have been occasions when internal information about ongoing investigations has been leaked to the press. That is something that is not supposed to happen. It's contrary to FBI procedures and practice. And that is actually what McCabe is accused of having done, we're told in this inspector general investigation, and for not being candid about it. So, you know, I think it's pretty dramatically overstated. But there have been instances where there have been inappropriate behavior by the FBI, including leaks of ongoing information about ongoing investigations. And when that happens, the FBI tries to reaffirm its policies and hold people to account, as they should.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It seems, though, with a tweet like that as we heard, the president is possibly setting the stage for undermining the FBI further and firing special counsel Robert Mueller. The president's own lawyer suggested as much yesterday. Is that a concern for you?

HADLEY: Well, the lawyer yesterday, as I read the press report, called for the investigation either to be shut down or brought to conclusion. It's not really clear. This issue about whether President Trump would fire Robert Mueller has come up from time to time. Generally, the White House has said they are not considering firing Robert Mueller. That is something, as Mara Liasson said, that I think would bring not just Democrats but Republicans in the Congress...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You believe that's a red line for them?

HADLEY: Well, we've heard this discussion before, where Republican members of Congress have said that - they've been asked whether there should be legislation to protect Robert Mueller from firing. At the time when that has come up, Republicans have basically said there was no need because there was no threat. But I think it shows that the Republicans, as well as the Democrats, would be very sensitive to that issue if it comes back on the table. But it's not clear to me that it's back on the table at this point.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to get your reaction to Rex Tillerson's firing and his legacy, which some see as the gutting of the State Department.

HADLEY: Well, look. Rex Tillerson is a wonderful man. He's a man of great integrity, a man of great accomplishment. He brought a wealth of experience and contacts to his position. And I think as the principal diplomat of the country, he did very well. It's obvious that he had policy disagreements with the president and lost the president's confidence. And the president decided to make a change, as he is able to do. But I think he served the country well. And he has now an able designated successor who will be in a position to address some of the concerns that have been raised about the Tillerson tenure.

One is, of course - is that a lot of vacancies at senior levels remain open. That is actually a an opportunity for Mike Pompeo to bring in people that he has confidence in and can work well with. I think Director Pompeo, when he becomes secretary of state, will also address this issue about State Department reorganization, which has been a fairly neuralgic issue both with the Congress and with the workforce. So I think Tillerson's a great man. I think he did a - served the country ably. There are some questions that were raised about them - about his tenure. And I think Mike Pompeo has an opportunity to address those.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you think, though, the message is to other countries like China and Russia right now? I mean, we have important talks on the horizon with North Korea. We are in between secretaries of state. We don't even have an ambassador, for example, to South Korea. Ivanka Trump is now doing some of the South Korean diplomacy. What state is our diplomacy in right now?

HADLEY: Well, you know, whenever you file - change a secretary of state, it is disruptive because Rex Tillerson had a year to develop relations with his counterparts and heads of state and government. And that's now been disrupted. On the other hand, the question foreigners always ask is, does the secretary of state speak for the president? And there were questions raised about that because of some of the things President Trump is reported to have said about Rex Tillerson. I think the good news is that by designating Mike Pompeo and expressing confidence in him, I think it will reassure foreign leaders that when Mike Pompeo is secretary, he indeed will be speaking for the president. That's a plus.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Former national security adviser Stephen Hadley, thank you so very much for joining us.

HADLEY: Nice to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.