Meeting of the mouths
Does Kim Jong Un remember when Donald Trump mocked him as “short and fat” and “little Rocket Man?” As for Trump, could he have forgotten the dash for a dictionary after Kim ridiculed him a “mentally deranged ... dotard?”
On the first, probably. On the second, not likely. But no matter. It’s not hyberbole to call Thursday night’s announcement a bombshell: The president has accepted an invitation from the North Korean dictator to meet face-to-face.
South Korea’s national security adviser, speaking from outside the White House after relaying the proposal, said the meeting will occur “by May” at a location to be determined.
Kim has also committed to halting nuclear and missile testing, even during joint U.S.-South Korean military drills next month.
It would be the first meeting between a sitting American president and a North Korean leader. Ending the nuclear threat would be an ultimate test of Trump’s claimed deal-making prowess. Past diplomatic breakthroughs fizzled over time, bringing only temporary pauses in North Korea’s nuclear development.
Tipping White House reporters that the announcement was coming, Trump told ABC News, “Hopefully, you will give me credit” — apparently alluding to the sanctions squeeze and “fire and fury” warnings he aimed at Pyongyang.
Curb your expectations
Trump tweeted late Thursday: "Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!"
"We are a long ways from negotiations," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said. "We need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it. I think the first step, and I've said this before, is to have talks, to have some kind of talks about talks."
Tariffs not yet set in stone
Signing off on tariffs for foreign aluminum and steel, Trump said Canada and Mexico would be excluded and he would be “very flexible” about exempting other foreign allies before they take effect in 15 days.
“The actions we’re taking today are not a matter of choice . . . they’re a matter of necessity for our security,” Trump said.
Republicans in Congress weren’t won over. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) announced he. . . will “introduce legislation to nullify these tariffs.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a Trump ally, called the them “a tax hike on American manufacturers, workers and consumers.” See Laura Figueroa Hernandez’s story for Newsday.
Heaven can wait
When you’re Trump, you never know where the next fact-check is going to come from.
At the tariffs announcement, after steelworker union official talked about how his father lost his job, Trump told him: “Your father, Herman, is looking down. He’s very proud of you right now.”
“Oh, he’s still alive,” Sauritch replied.
“Then he’s even more proud of you,” Trump said.
Janison: States of defiance
As his job requires, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has becomes a loyal spokesman for federal authority, despite hailing from a state whose politicians for more than 100 years sounded the bugle of states’ rights on matters of race and segregation.
One state he is looking to bring to heel is California for its “irrational, unfair and unconstitutional policies” of resisting Trump administration enforcement of deportation policies. He singled out Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s warning to residents of upcoming immigration raids, which Trump also called a “disgrace.”
Schaaf called the policy “vindictive” and “racist.” See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
Love for the loser
Trump had praise — mostly — for departing top economic adviser Gary Cohn, who lost the argument against tariffs and attended his last Cabinet meeting Thursday..
“He may be a globalist, but I still like him. He is seriously a globalist. There’s no question. In his own way, but you know wha.t. He loves our country.”
Trump said Cohn may even be brought back, but in another job, because “he’s not quite as strong on those tariffs.”
Protectionists in the Trump administration have referred to their internal rivals, including Cohn, as “globalists.” Critics say they should stop using the term as they say it has anti-Semitic connotations.
Trump has 48.8 million Twitter followers on his personal account and has asserted his right to evict from that club — meaning block — those who displease him.
Seven people who have been shut out, along with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, went to court. They contended that they had a right to see the tweets because Trump uses the feed in an official capacity to announce policies or policy proposals.
Manhattan federal Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald suggested a compromise settlement — that Trump mute the critics instead of blocking them. Both sides said they’ll consider the idea. See John Riley’s story for Newsday.
What else is happening:
- Was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson playing coy or embarassingly out of the loop? Touring Africa, he told reporters Thursday that the U.S. is “a long ways from negotiations” with North Korea, Politico reported.
- Trump said his administration is in the final stage of crafting regulations to ban bump stocks — devices that enable semi-automatic guns to fire at fully automatic speeds. “Bump stocks are going to be gone,” he said.
- Escalating his battle with New York and New Jersey officials, Trump has threatened to veto a massive omnibus spending package if it includes money for the Gateway rail tunnel project under the Hudson River, Politico reported.
- Exploring answers to mass shootings, Trump raised concerns about the graphic depiction of violence in video games at a closed-door White House meeting with members of the industry and its critics. Research has failed to find a link between gun violence and graphic depictions of violence in games.
- Jared Kushner met with Mexican officials to try to smooth a strain in relations after a tense phone call with Trump led President Enrique Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel a planned trip to Washington.
- Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the point man in the Stormy Daniels mess, was seen at Mar-a-Lago last weekend, CNN reports. Trump was also there, but it’s unclear whether they spoke directly. Cohen isn’t a regular at the club.
- New Jerseyan David Dennison has been deluged on social media since reports that the same name was used as a pseudonym for Trump in the hush agreement with Daniels, People magazine reports.