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Keep ’em guessing: Trump plays North Korea cards ‘close to vest’

President Donald Trump attends the annual Easter Egg

President Donald Trump attends the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 17, 2017. Credit: TNS / Olivier Douliery

War of nerves

By President Donald Trump’s standards, his latest words on North Korea and its nuclear weapons program were measured, if not exactly calming.

“I hope things work out well. I hope there’s going to be peace,” the president told Fox News. But Trump said the United States has been “outplayed” by North Korea since Bill Clinton’s days.

Vice President Mike Pence, visiting South Korea, said the “failed policy of strategic patience” is over -- meaning the United States won’t let Kim Jong Un get to the point where he can make good on nuclear threats against the United States.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump does not plan to announce any “red lines” threatening military action. “He holds his cards close to the vest, and I think you’re not going to see him telegraphing how he’s going to respond to any military or other situation going forward,” Spicer said.

Spicer added “there are a lot of tools left” to rein in Kim, and said China’s efforts to apply economic pressure were “encouraging.” But Pence warned, “All options are on the table.”

A North Korean official said missile tests will continue.

New push on jobs, trade

Trump plans to visit a Wisconsin toolmaking factory Tuesday to sign an executive order backing up his “Buy American, Hire American” pledge, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.

He will call for an assessment of the H-1B guest worker visa program that critics say results in foreign workers displacing American workers and undercutting wages. It also would review trade deals, waivers and exceptions that put U.S. products and services at a disadvantage in the global public-procurement market, officials said.

In a preview briefing, an official sidestepped a question about the use of visas to hire foreign workers at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Despite all the Trump-related fanfare, the sprawling Boeing corporation is moving ahead with big job cuts, the Seattle Times reports.

Maybe when hell freezes over?

On the eve of Tuesday’s income-tax filing deadline, Spicer was asked if Trump has decided to never release his returns.

“We’ll have to get back to you on that,” he replied.

Trump’s repeated excuse has been that his returns going back many years are under audit, but he hasn’t backed that up with documentation.

As for America at large, promised reforms of the tax system are still nowhere to be found

Believe him?

Trump’s approval ratings continue to hover just above 40 percent, but there has been a sharp drop in voters’ faith that he’ll keep his promises, from 62 percent in February to 45 percent, according to a Gallup Poll.

The poll, taken April 5-9, did not reflect some of Trump’s more recent shifts, but it was underway when Trump launched his missile strike on Syria, reversing a policy on not confronting Bashar Assad’s regime.

The survey also came after the failure of his first effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Different strokes

On the one hand, you had Trump calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate him on winning a referendum that expands his powers. 

On the other hand, you had Trump's State Department -- like much of Europe -- striking a discordant note. Department spokesman Mark Toner intoned: “We look to the government of Turkey to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all its citizens.”

Questions remain about the vote and how it was conducted.

It’s how he rolls

The Trump White House’s first Easter Egg Roll went off smoothly despite a late start in planning, with Melania Trump hosting and 21,000 visitors on the South Lawn of the Executive Mansion.

Trump did seem to miss a cue during the singing of the national anthem. The first lady and son Barron raised their right hands to cover their hearts when it began, but the president’s arms remained at his sides.

Melania gently tapped him, and Trump moved his hand to the proper position. (Video here.)

What else is happening

  • Hillary Clinton's campaign might have looked more awful from the inside than it did from the outside, a new book suggests.
  • After a two-week hiatus, Trump resumed Twitter-bashing the “fake media,” complaining they have “gotten even worse since the election. Every story is badly slanted.”
  • The White House and its finance industry allies want to get rid of Richard Cordray, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, before his term ends next year. But they are hesitating because a dramatic firing could boost Cordray’s run as a Democrat for governor of Ohio, Politico reports.
  • Trump tweeted a blast at the “super Liberal Democrat in the Georgia Congressional race tomorrow.” He was referring to Democrat Jon Ossoff, who leads an 18-candidate field for the House seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, but would have to top 50 percent to avoid a runoff.
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has Trump’s ear again, according to Politico. But he isn’t necessarily looking for a job with Trump when his term as governor ends, leaning instead toward “making money” in the private sector.
  • Trump is filling more jobs with veterans of the George W. Bush administration, seeking a pool of experienced hands who can run federal agencies, Politico reports.
  • Trump, prompted by an author’s comment on “Fox & Friends,” tweeted: “The first 90 days of my presidency has exposed the total failure of the last eight years of foreign policy!” He didn’t follow up with any particular claims of success.

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