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Trump moves the North Korea goalposts closer

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump during their summit on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. They are set to meet again this week in Hanoi. Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

No way he'll bomb

In a tweet Sunday morning, President Donald Trump simultaneously raised and lowered expectations for his summit in Hanoi this week with North Korea's Kim Jong Un: "We both expect a continuation of the progress made at first Summit in Singapore. Denuclearization?"

Before last June's Singapore meeting, denuclearization was a demand, not a question, as in a September 2017 tweet: "We must all do our part to ensure the complete denuclearization of #NoKo."

After the Singapore meeting, Trump called denuclearization all but a done deal: "I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea."

But more than eight months later, there's still no agreement on what denuclearization means, let alone how to get there. Trump said last week that there's "no rush" for Kim to give up his nuclear weapons as long as he doesn't resume testing them.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on "Fox News Sunday" that “I hope we can make a real substantive step forward this week. It may not happen, but I hope that it will.”

If not, foreign policy experts told The Washington Post, they expect Trump will still want to make some splashy announcement that he can point to as symbolic progress.

He will have extra incentive for attention-grabbing because the meeting is scheduled hours after his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen's testimony on Capitol Hill. Besides, Trump keeps hinting that he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. For more on Trump's upcoming trip, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez and Scott Eidler

Seeing ain't believing

Pompeo is no slouch on managing diplomacy toward his boss. On CNN's "State of the Union," he was asked how he squares still labeling North Korea as a nuclear threat when Trump has said it isn't any more.

"That's not what he said … I know precisely what he said," Pompeo said.

Huh? "He tweeted: 'There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,'" host Jake Tapper pointed out, quoting Trump precisely.

"What he said was that the efforts that had been made in Singapore — this commitment that Chairman Kim made — have substantially taken down the risk to the American people," insisted Pompeo.

Meantime Trump continues as usual to spew false numbers and made-up facts regarding the United States and South Korea.

Great if not tariff-ic

Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon that he will delay increased tariffs on Chinese imports that had been scheduled to take effect Friday because of “substantial progress” and “productive talks” over recent days. No new deadline was set.

"Assuming both sides make additional progress," Trump said, a summit will be planned with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, "to conclude an agreement."

Janison: de Lusional?

Bill de Blasio tested the waters in frigid Iowa this past weekend to see if he can do what no New York mayor before him has been done — get members of his party to consider him as a candidate for president.

De Blasio called the prospect of running "a very personal reality." He drew a crowd, if you want to call it that, of about two dozen — which wouldn't be enough to fill the seats on a subway car. Stuck in a blizzard on the way back to Des Moines, he spent the night in a Super 8 motel with a gas station microwaved burrito for dinner, The New York Post reported

Newsday's Dan Janison recalls the broken presidential dreams of past mayors John Lindsay and Rudy Giuliani. Another still might try — Michael Bloomberg — but unlike de Blasio he's got billions of dollars in personal capital to make up for what he lacks in national political capital.

Show me the Mueller

House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday he will subpoena Robert Mueller to testify before lawmakers if the special counsel's report on his investigation of Russian election interference is not made public.

It's not yet clear whether Attorney General William Barr will let Congress see the report or release it. Schiff said on ABC's "This Week" that “If the president is serious about all of his claims of exoneration, then he should welcome the publication of this report.” See Figueroa's story for Newsday.

Taking liberty

July 4, 2019, will be the nation's 243rd birthday, but perhaps the first with a touch of Trump branding.

Trump tweeted that he will host a "Salute to America" on Independence Day at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington with a "major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!"

The nation's capital has had July 4 fireworks and live music on the National Mall for decades. The Washington Post said it was unclear if Trump was aiming to add to the existing festivities or compete with them.

What else is happening:

  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo put the biggest blame on Trump's tax overhaul for a surprise drop in state income tax revenue, but fiscal analysts say other factors could have played larger roles, reports Newsday's Michael Gormley.
  • Trump helped magnify Spike Lee's urging at the Oscars that in 2020, "Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate." The president whined about this somehow comprising a "racist hit" from Lee.
  • Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele accused Trump on MSNBC of failing to speak out forcefully against a white nationalist arrested in an alleged terror plot because "these are his people."
  • Five federal lawmakers who represent Long Island are asking Trump to intervene with China on behalf of a Huntington man sentenced to 10 years in prison there on espionage-related charges, reports Newsday's Zachary R. Dowdy.
  • Former FBI official Andrew McCabe said on ABC's "This Week" that his lawyers are now drafting a lawsuit against the Trump administration "challenging the circumstances of my firing."
  • In a sentencing memo, Mueller's prosecutors said former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort "repeatedly and brazenly violated the law" for more than a decade.

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