Eyes on the prize
Donald Trump is still new to statecraft, but not to stagecraft. His approach to North Korea began with brinkmanship. Now he’s moving on to showmanship. Along with the substance of nuclear arms negotiations with Kim Jong Un, he’s thinking about the look.
That’s why, Trump said Monday, the best place for that summit could be the Korean Demilitarized Zone, Newsday’s Laura Figueroa Hernandez reports.
“There’s something I like about it because you’re there, you’re actually there where if things work out there’s a great celebration to be had on the site — not in a third-party country,” Trump said. “ ... It has the chance to be a big event.”
Trump also acknowledged the talks could fail. But his musings come as South Korean President Moon Jae-in suggested Trump would be deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. Trump heard a weekend rally crowd chant “Nobel! Nobel!”
Since everyone is getting ahead of themselves, it’s worth noting the past Nobel Prizes that were shared between enemies who made peace, such as America’s Henry Kissinger with North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho (1973) and Israel’s Menachem Begin with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat (1978). So Trump might have to accommodate Kim in his Nobel picture.
Could it get even more crowded? Former NBA star Dennis Rodman told TMZ that he deserves some credit, too.
Which way on Iran?
There’s a nuclear deal Trump would love to make, and then there’s a nuclear deal he has long said he’s tempted to break.
But the president won’t say yet whether he will move to end the Obama-era agreement with Iran, reports Newsday’s Figueroa.
“We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters. “I’m not telling you what I’m doing. A lot of people think they know.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that his spies recently seized secret files showing Iran lied when it said it wasn’t conducting a nuclear weapons program before the 2015 accord. That “showed that I’ve been 100 percent right,” Trump said.
Negotiators who worked on the accord told The Washington Post that it’s not a revelation that Iran had such a program. What the new finding reinforces, they said, is the need to keep the deal and its monitoring mechanisms in place.
Janison: Short memories
Foes of Trump’s immigration policies sometimes get themselves worked up over the type of enforcement action that has been going on far longer than he has been in office.
Such is the case with a viral video posted by gubernatorial contender Cynthia Nixon of an agent questioning passengers at a bus station she identified as being in Syracuse. His manner seemed pleasant, but Nixon said the agent was “intimidating people.”
This kind of federal questioning has been going on for at least a decade in places within 100 miles of the Canadian border. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
New from the Stormy front
Porn star Stormy Daniels sued Trump for defamation because of a tweet in which the president mocked her claim that she was once threatened to keep quiet about her alleged sexual fling with him, reports Newsday’s John Riley.
She was already suing Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who arranged the $130,000 payoff to Daniels to keep her quiet.
Meanwhile, ABC News reports that Trump’s campaign has covered almost $228,000 of Cohen’s legal fees.
Though the fees went to a law firm representing Cohen in litigation with Daniels — which would make the use of campaign funds questionable — the network said it was told by sources that the legal work wasn’t related to that.
The same firm also has represented Cohen in the Russia investigation.
Still digging that hole
Trump hosted Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari Monday — the first visit by an African leader since he took office.
Trump’s scatological slur about African countries during a private January session with senators didn’t come up in their meeting, the two presidents said at a joint news conference. But Trump didn’t deny that he had said it.
“You do have some countries that are in very bad shape and very tough places to live in,” Trump said. “We didn’t discuss it, because the president knows me, and he knows where I’m coming from and I appreciate that.”
Buhari insisted he didn’t know what to believe after the reports of Trump’s language, so “the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”
Rex Tillerson, Trump’s first secretary of state, couldn’t bring himself to issue a firm denial last year when NBC News reported he referred to Trump as a “moron.” It was Chief of Staff John Kelly who eventually phoned Tillerson in March to alert him to his imminent firing-by-tweet.
Kelly was quicker Monday to try to shoot down an NBC News report that he referred to Trump multiple time as an “idiot.” The retired general called it “total BS” and said he and the president “have an incredibly candid and strong relationship.”
Trump later chimed in on Twitter that “The Fake News is going crazy making up false stories and using only unnamed sources (who don’t exist).”
What else is happening
- The New York Times reports it has the list of questions special counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask Trump. Many relate to potential obstruction of justice, including Trump’s thinking when he fired former FBI Director James Comey. Mueller also wants to explore Trump’s Russia ties.
- Trump has postponed a decision on imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, the European Union and Mexico until June 1, Reuters reported.
- Vice President Mike Pence's physician privately raised concerns about White House physician Ronny Jackson last year, in a dustup that involved privacy protections for Pence's wife Karen, CNN reports, citing internal memos.
- Trump tweeted that comedian Michelle Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was “a total disaster and an embarrassment to our great Country and all that it stands for.” For a perspective on catastrophic comedy, here’s a clip of Trump’s rebuttal when he was roasted on Comedy Central in 2011.
- Matt Schlapp, a sometime Trump surrogate, said on CNN that “journalists shouldn’t be the one to say the president or his spokesperson is lying.” Who then? Comedians?
- The mysterious disappearance of the oak tree Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron planted on the White House South Lawn last week has been solved. It’s in quarantine, as required for all plants brought into the United States.
- Thomas Homan, who has headed crackdown efforts as interim head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, announced he is retiring. Trump nominated him as permanent head of the agency in the fall, but Senate confirmation efforts stalled.
- Carl Icahn, a billionaire friend of Trump, received a hardship waiver from the EPA that will spare an Oklahoma oil refinery he owns from some regulations, Reuters reported.
- Vice President Mike Pence’s personal physician raised alarms about Trump’s doctor, Ronny Jackson, in the fall, CNN reported. The complaint accused Jackson — whose nomination to head Veterans Affairs was withdrawn last week — of violating privacy protections for Pence’s wife, Karen.