June 18, 2018

President Trump has reportedly redecorated the White House with … pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un? The Wall Street Journal's White House reporter, Michael C. Bender, spotted the unexpected wall art in the West Wing, noting that the images have apparently replaced "pics of Trump with Emmanuel Macron, president of France, one of America's closest allies."

Trump has faced backlash over his glowing praise of Kim, who is responsible for egregious human rights violations. Trump said this spring that "everyone thinks" he should win the Nobel Peace Prize for helping thaw tensions with North Korea, "but I would never say it." Jeva Lange

June 17, 2018
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The U.S. and South Korea will formally announce the suspension of "large-scale" military exercises this coming week, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Sunday.

While routine training is expected to continue, this will put an end to the "provocative, inappropriate, and expensive" war games President Trump promised to stop during his recent negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. After Trump's initial comments, it was not immediately clear what his pledge would mean.

The suspension will likely specify conditions under which the exercises would resume if Kim fails to meet his obligations in the denuclearization process. The U.S. and South Korea previously canceled exercises during negotiations with North Korea in 1992, but they were resumed the following year. Bonnie Kristian

June 14, 2018

Some wags apparently think it fun or instructive to point out that many of the same people, mostly on Fox News, who are publicly celebrating President Trump's summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un previously bristled at the idea of former President Barack Obama negotiating or shaking hands with Kim or lesser and greater geopolitical adversaries and dictators. For example, Sean Hannity:

Or Trump's White House director of strategic communications, Mercedes Schlapp:

Imagine if Obama had actually praised Kim's intelligence and dictatorial toughness on TV? In any case, back in 2013, when Trump was a dealmaking reality TV star, he had some probably sage advice for the president who is currently lauding his great victory on a nascent denuclearization process that Kim Jong Un hasn't yet detailed in writing.

One concern with Trump puffing up the North Korea negotiations, as 2013 Trump might tell you, is that now 2018 Trump has claimed "there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea," he is under greater pressure to make sure that's true, and Kim Jong Un can wrest even more concessions out of him or put less on the table — after all, as Trump says, Kim's "a great negotiator." On the other hand, North Korea is celebrating pretty publicly, too. Maybe Kim should read Trump's old tweets. Peter Weber

June 13, 2018

Fox News anchor Bret Baier sat down with President Trump aboard Air Force One on his way back from meeting North Korea's Kim Jong Un in Singapore, and about halfway through their conversation, which aired on Fox News Wednesday night, Baier gently reminded Trump that Kim is a brutal dictator whose country works and starves thousands of political prisoners to death in labor camps, among other horrific human rights abuses.

"You call people sometimes 'killers,'" Baier told Trump. "You know, he is a killer. I mean, he's clearly executing people." Trump said "he's a tough guy" and reiterated his argument that Kim inherited the country from his father at a young age. "So he's a very smart guy, he's a great negotiator, but I think we understand each other," Trump said. "But he's still done some really bad things," Baier interjected. Trump wasn't swayed: "Yeah, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things."

Along with his "whataboutism to normalize dictatorial brutality," as New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman put it, Trump also talked about his admiration for President Xi Jinping — "He's an incredible guy. You know, essentially president for life. That's pretty good" — and why he wants Russian President Vladimir Putin allowed back in the G7: "If Putin were sitting next to me and we were having dinner, I could say, 'Would you do me a favor?' ... I could ask him to do things that are good for the world." You can watch the entire interview at Fox News. Peter Weber

June 13, 2018
Kevin Lim/The Strait Times/Handout/Getty Images

When President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un sat down for a meeting Tuesday morning, no one was present except for translators. The agreement each leader signed provides some insight on the substance of the historic meeting, but there's no way to be completely sure what the two discussed.

North Korean state media is saying that Trump agreed to lift economic sanctions against the country, reports Reuters. The agreement Trump signed doesn't make any such promise.

Perhaps in an effort to make the summit look like a win for Kim, North Korea's official KCNA news agency reported that Trump promised to provide security guarantees, no strings attached. This pledge supposedly came in addition to ending the U.S.'s joint military exercises with South Korea, something Trump really did agree to. In a further boon for Kim, KCNA says that Trump only asked Kim to begin a vague "step-by-step" denuclearization process, and that Kim only agreed to it if "the U.S. side takes genuine measures for building trust."

Critics say that Trump conceded too much to Kim during the summit, like the cessation of military drills and his failure to demand that Kim improve his track record on human rights. Trump has hailed the meeting as a major success, saying he got everything he wanted from the summit — and apparently, so has Kim. Summer Meza

June 12, 2018

President Trump says he only discussed North Korea's human rights violations with leader Kim Jong Un "relatively briefly," but he thinks the prisoners held captive in North Korean gulags will turn out to be "great winners" anyway.

One reporter asked Trump whether he "betrayed" the 100,000 North Koreans who are being forcibly detained, but the president said he's "helped them" by meeting in a summit with Kim, predicting that "things will change."

"I think I've helped them," said Trump. "There's nothing I can say. All I can do is what I can do. We have to stop the nuclearization. We have to do other things, and that's a very important thing."

Trump also suggested that Kim would change his ways when it comes to human rights, even though the agreement the two leaders signed doesn't reference the issue. "But not much I can do right now," continued Trump. "At a certain point, I really believe he's going to do things about it. I think they are one of the great winners today, that large group of people that you're talking about." Summer Meza

June 12, 2018
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There's not much to derive from the ambiguous denuclearization deal President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un signed Tuesday. But the two leaders' historic handshake leaves a lot to unpack.

Trump took charge with a firm handshake and constantly touched Kim on the arm in a display of dominance, body language experts told The Washington Post. Kim avoided initiating contact or handshakes, which matched Korea's traditional deference to the elderly but also conveyed a humble position.

On Tuesday's episode of The Daily podcast, New York Times reporter Mark Landler pointed out that Kim fidgeted with the reading glasses he was holding. That only added to Kim's meekness and made Trump seem like the "senior partner" in the meeting.

Landler also broke down the optics of Trump and Kim's pre-conference plans. While Trump kept a low profile and met with Singapore's president the day before the historic summit, Kim went sightseeing and hit up a Sheldon Adelson-owned casino resort. There was an expectation that Kim would stay secluded, so this looked like a show of confidence to his own people, Landler said.

This meeting was all about image for both the leaders. Kim would've been satisfied with a picture of American and North Korean flags side by side, Landler said, while Trump is always out to impress. No word yet as to how Kim's personal toilet looked to his constituents. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 12, 2018
South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images

Among the conclusions reached at Tuesday's summit in Singapore, President Trump said, is that the U.S. will cease its "provocative" and costly "war games," the joint military exercises with South Korea that North Korea has long condemned as practice for conflict. But like the denuclearization pledge signed by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, details on what this promise means functionally are sparse.

So sparse, in fact, that the military does not know what to change. U.S. troops in South Korea have "received no updated guidance on execution or cessation of training exercises — to include this fall's scheduled Ulchi Freedom Guardian," said a military representative, Lt. Col. Jennifer Lovett, in a Tuesday statement. For now, Lovett added, business will proceed as usual until new instructions are provided.

South Korea also expressed some confusion about what to expect moving forward. President Moon Jae-in's administration said it needs "to find out the precise meaning or intentions" of Trump's statement and will "explore various measures to help the talks move forward more smoothly." Bonnie Kristian

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