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Will Trump's big step across Korea's DMZ get us anywhere?

President Donald Trump stands with North Korea's leader

President Donald Trump stands with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un north of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North Korea and South Korea in Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone on Sunday. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Brendan Smialowski

Photo op mission accomplished

With his short stroll alongside Kim Jong Un into North Korean territory at the Demilitarized Zone, President Donald Trump made history. But in a good way? There's not much to go on to figure that out.

To Trump, it was an accomplishment in itself that Kim agreed to the DMZ get-together after Trump suggested it in a tweet from the G-20 summit.

 "When I put out the social media notification, if he didn’t show up, the press was going to make me look very bad. So you made us both look good, and I appreciate it." 

They held a private 50-minute meeting, with a modest result. Trump said he and Kim agreed to set up teams who will meet and determine whether it's possible that progress could be made in a restart of nuclear arms negotiations.

It's uncertain who Kim will send to the talks after reports he ordered a ruthless purge since negotiations broke down at the Hanoi summit in February. Asked later if North Korean negotiators were still alive, Mr. Trump said: “I think they are. I can tell you who the main person is. And I would hope the rest are, too.”

Critics say Trump's walk on the north side made yet another gesture to confer legitimacy on Kim without winning any meaningful moves toward ending North Korea's nuclear program. American intelligence agencies doubt Kim will ever give up his nuclear arsenal as the U.S. demands. But Trump wants credit for reduced tensions, including a halt to North Korean testing.

Trump's goals if any pose a puzzle, even inside the White House. National Security Adviser John Bolton on Monday denied what other administration sources said: That they are considering a "freeze" on current nukes by Kim as enough to drop demands for denuclearization.

Trump also floated a new, mind-boggling claim Sunday: that Barack Obama "wanted to meet" Kim and the former president's administration was "begging for a meeting" but "Kim would not meet him." Ben Rhodes, who served Obama as a deputy national security adviser, tweeted in response: "Trump is lying." Click here for video of Trump's DMZ visit.

Tucker Carlson's brutal takes

Trump brought Fox News host Tucker Carlson into the meeting with Kim. Carlson has become increasingly influential with Trump, as was evident the week before last when he argued successfully that the president should overrule hard-line advisers and call off a planned military strike against Iran.

The president and Carlson also seem to have had a mind meld about not holding the brutality of bloodthirsty dictators against them. 

"You've got to be honest about what it means to lead a country, it means killing people. A lot of countries commit atrocities, including our allies," Carlson said on "Fox and Friends."

Carlson also dished on what he witnessed in the meeting. Kim was "wheezing" in an unhealthy manner and sounded like an "emphysema" patient, the Fox host said. The larger Trump "seemed to kind of dominate him and there was a kind of magnetism and real aggression to Trump, so it didn't feel exactly like peers. It felt like maybe an older brother-younger brother kind of situation."

Meanwhile a reminder arrived Monday that Trump's withdrawal from a nuclear deal may eclipse any agreement he would craft. Iran claims it has breached its stockpile limit in the multilateral 2015 agreement for low-enriched uranium. 

Janison: Flunking the smell test

Conservative Chief Justice John G. Roberts seems to tell the Trump administration in the U.S. Census citizenship case: "Come on. This is your story? Really?"

Newsday's Dan Janison writes that the disconnect between the Trump team's story — or as Roberts called it, "pretext" — on why it wants a citizenship question on the 2020 census and facts exposed from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' emails was too much for Roberts and a 5-4 court majority. "We are not required to exhibit a naiveté from which ordinary citizens are free," Roberts wrote.

Even Trump, in his tweets complaining about the decision, made no mention of the official and Roberts-debunked story that the citizenship question's purpose is to help enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

China trade carrot defended

Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, sought to calm critics of Trump's easing of restrictions on China's Huawei. Opponents worry the tech firm is seeking to advance Beijing's surveillance efforts.

Trump's move came after his G-20 meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping to try to get trade talks moving.

"The president is not backing off on the national security concerns," Kudlow said during Sunday talk show appearances. "We understand the huge risks regarding Huawei."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is not so sure that hey do. He vowed in a tweet on Saturday that if Trump follows through on his announcement, Congress will deliver a veto-proof reversal of his decision. See Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Biden's gaffe du jour

Joe Biden, seeking to illustrate the nation's progress against homophobia, told a gay rights fundraiser in Seattle Saturday that if someone in a business meeting in Seattle “made fun of a gay waiter” five years ago, people would have let it slide.

"Not in Seattle!" people in the crowd pushed back.

Five years ago, Biden told a similar story with a different timeline and a more vivid description of a "waiter with a distinct lisp" getting picked on by a patron. In that version, the offensive conduct would have happened in 1999 but not any more in 2014. 

Ivanka all over

Trump's daughter Ivanka took on a highly visible role during the G-20 summit and the Korea visit, and it made for some awkward moments, The Washington Post reported.

A video that went viral showed Ivanka jumping into a conversation among British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde. A side-eye from Lagarde suggested irritation at the interjection.

She gave a video "readout" of her father's meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and pronounced India a “critical ally.” While the U.S. partners with India in numerous areas, U.S. diplomats avoid ranking India among allies.

What else is happening:

  • New White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham suffered bruises after wading into a scuffle and pushing aside North Korean security officials who were blocking U.S. journalists from the room where Trump and Kim met. Click here for a video clip.
  • Trump said that his administration still plans to launch big ICE raids to deport undocumented immigrants starting in about a week unless there's a "miraculous" deal on immigration policies with Democrats.
  • Kamala Harris' Democratic rivals came to her defense after right-wing figures including Donald Trump Jr. tweeted false claims that she is neither black nor a U.S. citizen. Biden called it a "disgusting" echo of "birtherism" and Bernie Sanders tweeted: "Donald Trump Jr. is a racist too. Shocker."
  • Harris rose to third place among Democratic primary contender in a new Morning Consult poll. The surge from 6% to 12% came after her strong debate performance at Biden's expense on Thursday night.
  • Who needs Russia? In a homegrown disinformation venture, a Trump campaign digital consultant created a fake Biden website and brags he has fooled people into thinking it was the former vice president's real campaign page, The New York Times reported.
  • As part of the Trump takeover of Washington's Independence Day celebration, an area in front of the Lincoln Memorial has been reserved for dignitaries, family and friends that will be accessible only through tickets distributed by the White House, The Washington Post reported.

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