North Korea’s bomb
President Donald Trump began Sunday morning by tweeting confirmation that North Korea conducted a major nuclear test and floating some response options. Among them: The U.S. could ban trade with countries that conduct business with North Korea, which would primarily be China.
North Korean officials said the nuclear test was an advanced hydrogen bomb for a long-range missile.
Trump, asked whether he plans a military attack on North Korea as he was leaving a church service in Washington, D.C., on Sunday morning, said “We’ll see,” reports Newsday’s Scott Eidler.
The New York Times notes that Trump had harsher criticism for South Korea, a U.S. ally, than for China.
“South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”
On China, he tweeted, “North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”
Later Sunday, Defense Secretary James Mattis said there was an “ironclad” American commitment to its allies, including South Korea and Japan.
“We have many military options, and the president wanted to be briefed on each one of them,” Mattis told reporters outside the White House, according to Politico. “Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies, will be met with a massive military response — a response both effective and overwhelming.”
More likely, though: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday he’s preparing new economic sanctions against North Korea.
After his victim-free toe touch in a dry portion of Texas last week, Trump returned on Saturday for a do-over and snapped on latex gloves for Hurricane Harvey victims.
He got a warm reception from volunteers and children while touring a Houston megashelter for displaced residents.
Trump took a break from his empathizing to take a crack at his favorite target — the media. He said the Coast Guard went “into winds the media would not go into, they would not go into those winds, unless it’s a really good story.”
Of note: The media actually went into the winds with the rescuers.
Pressure is on Trump and Republicans in Congress to achieve a big policy win while churning through the basics, like raising the debt ceiling and avoiding a government shutdown, reports The Washington Post.
“So far, there is little evidence of progress.”
The take-away: Cooperation
Dan Janison delves into two Long Islanders who could be connected to the investigation into Russia’s influence on Trump’s election. One is Todd Kaminsky, the current Democratic state senator from Long Beach, who as a federal prosecutor had testified about the other Long Islander, Port Washington’s Felix Sater.
Kaminsky said the Russian-American businessman’s “cooperation runs a gamut that is seldom seen.”
“It involves violent organizations such as al-Qaida, it involves foreign governments, it involves Russian organized crime. And, most particularly, it involves various families of La Cosa Nostra.”
Separately, in a series of emails from 2015 from Sater to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, Sater wrote, “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” according to The New York Times. “I will get all of Putins [sic] team to buy in on this.”
20 for 2020
As many as 20 Democrats are lining up early to run against Trump, believing the president is beatable and they are the ones to do it, The New York Times reports.
Besides irking at least one billionaire donor, of note is that New York’s own Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand did not rule out a run to a donor, according to the paper. She had previously said she was ruling it out by saying she was “ruling it out.”
In March, Trump made the shocking claim that President Barack Obama ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower during the campaign.
The Department of Justice said in a new court filing Friday that there is no evidence to support that claim.
What else is happening
- A Politico report says that Trump will end DACA with a six-month delay so Congress can try to pass a legislative fix. The Obama-era program allows immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children to work and attend school, and its repeal — which Trump promised during the campaign — is expected to set off a fresh firestorm.
- Trump’s recent policy actions — from pardoning a controversial sheriff to banning transgender people from serving in the military — are aimed at appealing to his base, says The Washington Post.
- In the latest juicy White House intrigue scoop, The New York Times reports new Chief of Staff John Kelly’s efforts to control Trump grate on the president, and the feeling is mutual.
- Trump and a top political aide drafted an “angry, meandering” memo that offered an unvarnished view of the president’s thinking before he fired FBI director James Comey. Special counsel Robert Mueller now has a copy.
- Mnuchin said Sunday that Congress needs to raise the debt limit quickly because of Hurricane Harvey aid.