Deal us in, voters say
Donald Trump now has a date, June 12, and a place, Singapore, for his North Korea nuclear arms summit. He also has a growing majority of the American people hopeful he can make a deal with Kim Jong Un.
A new CNN poll found 77% of Americans approve of the president’s decision to meet with Kim — the highest-level contact ever between the U.S. and North Korea.
Overall, 53% approve of Trump’s handling of North Korea, and 35% disapprove. That’s a reversal from last fall, when Trump and Kim were trading insults of “Rocket Man” and “mentally deranged dotard” while rattling nuclear sabers.
“We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!” Trump tweeted.
Trump says the U.S. is aiming for “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, but he has yet to define exactly what that would mean.
Before dawn Thursday, Trump went to Joint Base Andrews to welcome home three U.S. detainees freed by North Korea. Trump said of Kim: “I really think he wants to do something” on denuclearization.
Success would bolster Trump’s defense of his presidency. As a Washington Post analysis put it: Each bold stroke is like a spritz of Febreze on his narrative of domestic scandal.
Toast to hostages’ host?
Trump got carried away in thanking Kim Jong Un for the prisoner release. “We want to thank Kim Jong Un, who really was excellent to these three incredible people,” Trump said.
The Americans were held for dubious reasons and sent to a labor camp. Vice President Mike Pence, interviewed on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” provided an insight into the North Korean dictator’s level of hospitality.
“It’s heartbreaking to think of it,” Pence said. “When the plane refueled in Anchorage, one of the detainees asked to go outside the plane because he hadn’t seen daylight in a very long time.”
Another Giuliani breakup
Rudy Giuliani’s short-term leave from his law firm, Greenberg Traurig, to lead Trump’s legal defense has become a permanent one. As happens often in the former New York mayor’s life, he’s not parting on the best of terms.
Giuliani said that he was stepping away “in light of the pressing demands of the Mueller investigation.” But the firm made clear its partners weren’t pleased with a Giuliani spin on the Stormy Daniels hush-money story — that it’s perfectly normal for a lawyer to make such a payment without telling the client.
“Michael [Cohen] would take care of things like this, like I take care of this with my clients,” Giuliani had said on Fox News.
Greenberg spokeswoman Jill Perry told The New York Times: “Speaking for ourselves, we would not condone payments of the nature alleged to have been made or otherwise without the knowledge and direction of a client.”
Janison: The deep end
When past or present members of the intelligence community or other career officials displease him, Trump has freely hurled the conspiratorial-sounding epithet “deep state” against them.
But in seeking Senate approval for Gina Haspel to lead the CIA, Trump has turned to an ultimate inside player, not an outside disrupter. Trump seems now to view esteem in the ranks of the CIA as a good thing.
If she crosses him down the road, he could end up branding her as deep-stater. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
This is just disgusting
In a meeting of White House communications staffers, special assistant Kelly Sadler dismissed Sen. John McCain’s opposition to Haspel by remarking, “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway.”
Asked about Sadler’s comment, first reported by The Hill, a White House spokesman did not dispute it happened. “We respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation, and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”
The Arizona Republican senator and Vietnam War POW hero has brain cancer. His wife, Cindy, tweeted at Sadler: “May I remind you my husband has a family, 7 children and 5 grandchildren.”
Here come the judges
Trump announced his first seven judicial appointees for New York Thursday, renominating two of President Barack Obama’s candidates who were blocked by Senate Republicans from serving on courts that cover Long Island, Newsday’s Tom Brune reports.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has led his members in blocking and delaying most of the president’s judicial nominations, backed Trump’s selections. Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro said it “was the result of a sound, collaborative and bipartisan process.”
Pushed to edge by borders rant
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told colleagues she was close to resigning after Trump berated her Wednesday in front of the entire Cabinet, complaining she hasn’t done enough to secure the nation’s borders, The New York Times reported.
Nielsen — miserable in the job — has drafted a resignation letter, but has not submitted it, according to two of the people who spoke to the newspaper.
After the story was posted online, a statement from Nielsen said Trump is “rightly frustrated” about the border, blaming it, in part, on “congressional inaction.”
What else is happening
- AT&T’s $600,000 contract with Cohen specified he was supposed to advise the company on its proposed merger with Time Warner, which Trump had voiced opposition to during the campaign, The Washington Post reported.
- In an interview with CNN, Giuliani said Trump told him he “wasn’t aware” that Cohen pitched his access to the president to potential clients.
- Trump mocked Schumer as “Cryin’ Chuck” in a tweet attacking the senator’s criticism of the president’s pullout from the Iran deal. Schumer responded with “#BeBest” — alluding to Melania Trump’s new public awareness campaign about perils to children such as cyberbullying.
- Jared Kushner will visit a federal lockup outside Dallas Friday as part of an effort to promote prison reform, the Houston Chronicle reported.
- Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, is a target of more than 50 civil complaints over his investment firm’s purchase of a bankrupt Seattle-based coffee chain five years ago, according to The Seattle Times.
- National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both have reputations as hard-liners, but there are differences that will matter in making policy, reports Politico. Bolton cares most about settling scores; Pompeo wants plans for what happens afterward.
- Trump now believes a deal with North Korea, rather than the Middle East peace he hoped to broker, could be his historic victory on the world stage, a confidant told The Associated Press.