WASHINGTON, May 24, 2018 —By canceling his planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Trump’ kept his promise to walk away if he didn’t think a deal was possible, said a senior White House official.
“The president was always clear that he was prepared to walk away from this meeting,” the official said Thursday. “He has kept his word.”
The White House announced that morning that the summit — which had been set to take place June 12 in Singapore — would not happen by releasing a letter from Trump to Kim in which the president sent his regrets but left open the possibility of future talks.
That letter was dictated by Trump himself this morning, the official said, adding that the decision to call things off came after the North left “a trail of broken promises” over the two-plus months since the president accepted Kim’s invitation to meet for disarmament talks.
The official explained that the US had made “significant efforts” to make arrangements for the summit “in good faith” over the two and a half months since March 8, when Trump poked his head into the White House briefing room to alert reporters to a forthcoming “major statement” from South Korean officials,
Trump accepted Kim’s invitation, the official said, because Kim had assured Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — with whom he first met while the latter was CIA director — that his government would accept the annual joint US-South Korea military exercises and would allow international observers and experts to observe the decommissioning of the North’s main nuclear test site.
But things began to break down last week after Pyongyang canceled planned talks with a South Korean delegation. The talks were to be a follow-on to the landmark meeting between Kim and South Korean president Moon Jae-in.
The North also issued a blistering statement condemning the exercises and lashing out at Trump’s national security adviser, Amb. John Bolton, for suggesting that the US was seeking a disarmament model akin to the one agreed to by Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi during the George W. Bush administration.
The North’s condemnation of the joint exercises “constituted a broken promise,” the official said.
While the North has gone forward with plans to publicly decommission the nuclear site this week, it broke another of its promises to Pompeo by only allowing journalists — not scientists or nuclear experts — to observe the process.
“We hope that’s the case but we really don’t know,” the official said of the decommissioning process, adding that because experts weren’t allowed to take part in the process, the US will not have any forensic evidence proving that much was accomplished.
While President Trump said last week that the US was in communication with the North despite the bellicose rhetoric pertaining to the joint military exercises, the official’s account contradicted the president,
Regarding communications, “the news has also been spotty,” said the official, adding that the US had made numerous attempts to communicate with Pyongyang in recent weeks but had received no response other than last Wednesday’s statement.
The official also noted that while the US had sent an advance team to Singapore headed by White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Joe Hagin, North Korea — without explanation — failed to attend any agreed-upon planning sessions.
“They didn’t really tell us anything,” said the official. “They simply stood us up.”
Even as South Korean officials appeared confident that the summit would happen during Moon’s visit to the White House earlier this week, the official said Trump had been skeptical that the plans would come to pass.
But any hope that the talks could be salvaged was dashed after another North Korean official, Choe Son Hui, reacted to a Fox News host’s interview with Vice President Mike Pence, in which he echoed a suggested by Trump that talks between the North and the US would end “like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal.”
Pence’s remarks were “unbridled and impudent,” said Cho, who also called the vice president a “political dummy” and warned that “whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.”
Asked whether the dig at Pence played a role in Trump’s decision-making process, the official simply replied: “it wasn’t helpful.”
However, a source close to Pence said Trump’s decision to cancel the summit had very little to do with the insult directed at the vice president, but was first and foremost a response to the North’s threat on the United States.
“No summit can be successful under those terms,” said the source, who explained that insults and bellicose rhetoric were to be expected from Pyongyang, but that the threat changed conditions in a way that made successful negotiations impossible.
The senior White House official would not answer questions as to whether Bolton’s remarks about the “Libya model” played any role in causing the breakdown, but reiterated Trump’s desire to take “every opportunity” to arrive at a “peaceful resolution” of the ongoing crisis surrounding the North’s nuclear program.
The official also reiterated the White House’s view that the blame for the breakdown lies solely with North Korea.
“This strange lack of judgment combined with the broken promises over the past weeks and North Korea’s suspension of communications with the United States suggests a profound lack of good faith,” the official said.
US Ambassador To UK Says Trump ‘Aware’ Of Giant Baby Blimp, Will Discuss Second Novichok Incident With May
WASHINGTON, July 6, 2018 — The United States’ Ambassador to the United Kingdom says President Donald Trump is aware of the numerous protests set to greet him when he arrives in London next week, including the large balloon depicting him as a phone-toting baby set to fly over Parliament for the duration of his visit.
“I think we’re all aware [of the protests],” Ambassador Robert “Woody” Johnson said Friday during a conference call with reporters.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan initially denied permission for the “Trump Baby” balloon — the brainchild of a U.K.-based crowdfunding campaign — to fly over Parliament but reversed course after more than 100,000 people signed an online petition.
The balloon is six meters in height and depicts the president as a diaper-clad infant holding a smartphone.
President Trump, Johnson said, appreciates the value of free speech as “one of the things that bind us together” in both the U.S. and U.K., but will be “very focused” on making sure the relationship between the two countries is improved and that American prosperity and security are enhanced by this trip.
The president’s reliance on helicopters to get to and from various locations around London and the UK is not out of any desire to avoid his seeing protesters, Johnson explained.
While Johnson acknowledged that getting Trump to and from some of the various sites he will visit “requires being in the air,” he said that the president will “use various modes of transportation.”
Johnson says Trump and May ‘are on the same page’ concerning Russian malfeasance despite Trump’s history of downplaying it
Johnson also said he thinks that Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May “are on the same page” when it comes to Russia’s malign activities, including Russia’s use of the chemical agent Novichok to poison an ex-spy and his daughter earlier this year. Residual poison left over from that attack is thought to have been what caused a British couple to be similarly stricken this past week.
Trump “was very receptive to what happened” to Sergei and Yulia Skripal — the Russian father and daughter who were poisoned — and “expelled 60 spies or people or whatever you want to call them very rapidly,” he said, adding that he knew that Trump and May would be discussing the matter when they meet at Chequers, the British Prime Minister’s country retreat.
However, Johnson did not address the numerous media reports which indicated that Trump was displeased with having to expel more Russian diplomats than other countries in retaliation for the poisoning or the statements made by Trump in which he downplayed Russia’s involvement or cast doubt on whether Vladimir Putin’s government was involved in the incident at all.
Trump has consistently refused to criticize Russia or its president and consistently downplays the extent of its malign activities
Trump has a history of downplaying or minimizing Russian malign activities dating back to his 2016 campaign for the presidency, during which he responded to a TV interview question about Putin’s history of murdering journalists by suggesting the U.S. “has a lot of killers” as well.
Since taking office, Trump has repeatedly denied that Russia interfered on his behalf in the 2016 election despite reports affirming such a conclusion having been issued by the U.S. intelligence community and the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Trump’s refusal to acknowledge Russia’s international malfeasance also extends to its 2014 invasion of Ukraine. During an impromptu press conference last month, Trump suggested that the invasion — which was ordered by Putin — was actually the fault of then-President Barack Obama.
His reluctance to criticize Russia or Putin has continued through this month. During a July 5 campaign-style rally in Montana, Trump mocked critics who suggested that he should be wary of meeting with Putin, a former KGB officer, without any advisors or note takers.
“Putin’s fine,” Mr. Trump said. “He’s fine. We’re all fine. We’re people. Will I be prepared? Totally prepared. I’ve been preparing for this stuff my whole life.”
“Getting along with Russia, and getting along with China and getting along with other countries is a good thing,” he added, “not a bad thing.”
Conway Tells Reporters ‘No Evidence’ Of Trump Plans To Withdraw US Troops From Germany Despite Reports That Pentagon Is Conducting Cost Analysis Of Withdrawal
WASHINGTON, June 29, 2018 — Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway told reporters Friday that “there’s no evidence” of President Donald Trump wanting to pull American troops out of Germany despite a Washington Post report indicating that the Pentagon is examining the cost of doing just that.
“There’s no evidence of that,” Conway said after telling reporters “I will let you know” if there is any policy change regarding the military presence the United States has maintained in Germany since the end of the second world war.
On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the Pentagon began examining the cost of pulling American troops from bases in Germany after Trump expressed interest in doing so during a meeting with White House and Pentagon officials earlier this year.
Trump has often spoken negatively of the American military presence in Europe, which he says costs the U.S. millions of dollars and provides a security umbrella for which America’s European allies should be paying more.
An American withdrawal from Germany would be a boost to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to regain Russia’s Soviet-era sphere of influence.
Nevertheless, Trump has repeatedly invoked North Atlantic Treaty Organization members’ failure to spend two percent on their national defense as evidence that NATO members “owe” the United States for the cost of their protection, and incorrectly described NATO as an organization to which member states pay “dues.”
When asked why the Pentagon would be examining the cost of withdrawing American troops from there after Trump had expressed interest in doing so, Conway replied that “nobody said those reports are accurate,” adding that Trump “is always examining our relationships across the globe — you’ve seen that.”
“He’s about to have his second big summit in five or six weeks time, first with the leader of North Korea, now with the leader of Russia,” Conway added, suggesting that President Trump was being more transparent than his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, because the summit was announced in advance.
Conway then negatively compared this week’s announcement to when Obama was caught on a hot microphone telling Putin that he’d have more flexibility to discuss US-Russia relations after the 2012 election when any actions dealing with US-Russia relations would not be used for election-related attacks.
After Meeting With North Korean Official, Trump Says Kim Summit Will Happen But Lowers Expectations
WASHINGTON, June 1, 2018 — President Trump’s on-again, off-again June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is back on.
Trump emerged onto the South Portico of the White House to announce the summit’s un-cancelation following what he called a “very good” two-hour meeting with Kim Young Chol — the 35-year-old North Korean dictator’s number two and head of North Korea’s security services — to announce the summit he’d abruptly canceled last week would, in fact, go on as planned.
“We’re going to have a relationship, and it will start on June 12,” Trump told reporters following a round of photographs with the North Korean official in which the two were joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Trump’s Friday afternoon meeting with Kim Young Chol marked the first time in nearly two decades that a representative from Pyongyang — with which Washington has never had diplomatic relations — had entered the White House.
Although Chol was only supposed to have delivered a letter from Kim Jong Un, the Oval Office meeting — the first by a North Korean official since the Clinton administration — went on and on until the two men came out to face the cameras.
The meeting was also closed to the press, though the White House later released official photos depicting the two men in the Oval Office. However, BeltwayBreakfast does not publish White House photos of an event from which the press was excluded.
Friday’s events capped a week of intense speculation, which kicked off last Friday when the White House released a letter Trump dispatched to Kim in which he called off the summit, ostensibly on account of a belligerent statement from the North which referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy.”
Trump had reportedly grown anxious over the possibility that Kim, who was thought to be upset at American officials’ insistence that the North denuclearize in the same way as Libyan dictator Moammar Gadaffi, would embarrass him by being the first to pull out.
The decision appeared to stun both American and Korean officials, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has staked his political career on improving relations with the North.
But with Trump, no decision is final until it is final, and by Monday, the White House announced that advance teams had flown to Singapore and Pyongyang to see if the summit could be salvaged. Shortly after, Pyongyang announced that Kim Young Chol would travel to New York for another set of talks.
Although Kim Young Chol is normally forbidden to enter the U.S. under sanctions on account of his role in the North’s nuclear program and massive human rights abuses, the Trump administration granted him a waiver to enter — and to travel to Washington to deliver his leader’s letter to Trump.
While Trump appeared visibly pleased to announce that it was back on, he also appeared to lower expectations regarding whether it would result in any concrete progress, telling reporters that he and Kim would not be signing any kind of denuclearization agreement.
“I never said it goes in one meeting,” Trump said. “I think it’ll be a process, but the relationships are building and that’s a good thing. We’re not going to go in and sign something on June 12, and we never were.”
The declaration that the summit would not result in any agreement marked a significant change for Trump, who had repeatedly stated that a condition for the summit was the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
He also claimed to have read the”very interesting” letter Kim Young Chol had delivered, but later admitted that he hadn’t yet seen it.
Shortly after he boarded Marine One for a weekend visit to Camp David, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that he’d subsequently opened the letter.
“He has read the letter, and will give further details if he wants,” Sanders said.