Foreign Affairs

Trump Says Kim Summit Could Happen ‘Soon’ or Never

President Trump “set wildly opposite expectations in one sentence for his possible summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, including that it could never happen,” Roll Call reports.

He first said his one-on-one meeting with Kim could happen “very soon,” before saying he expects negotiations will allow an “early June” summit to take place. But the president then moved up the possible date to “before that” before backpedaling.

Said Trump: “It’s possible things won’t go well and we won’t have the meetings and we’ll just continue to go on this very strong path we have taken.”

GOP Will Push Forward on Pompeo Nomination

“Senate Republican leaders are pressing ahead with plans for a floor vote on CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination as secretary of state as soon as next week, despite the prospect of his getting an unfavorable recommendation in committee,” Politico reports.

“After a confirmation hearing marked by contentious exchanges with Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) — one of 15 members of the minority who backed Pompeo to lead the CIA — became the fifth Democrat on the panel to announce he would vote no. Coupled with opposition from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), unified resistance to Pompeo from the committee’s 10 Democrats would deal him an unfavorable recommendation, but top Republicans are still vowing to ensure his confirmation.”

Trump Halts New Russian Sanctions, Reversing Haley

President Trump “put the brakes on a preliminary plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia, walking back a Sunday announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that the Kremlin had swiftly denounced as ‘international economic raiding,'” the Washington Post reports.

“The Trump team decided to publicly characterize Haley’s announcement as a misstatement.”

Trump Keeps Battling His Aides on Russia

The Washington Post has an incredible anecdote that captures President Trump’s reluctance to punish Russian president Vladimir Putin, noting that the president “erupted” after learning the United States had ousted 60 Russians in response to the poisoning of a former spy, while France and Germany each expelled only five diplomats.

“The president, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia. His briefers tried to reassure him that the sum total of European expulsions was roughly the same as the U.S. number.”

Screamed Trump: “I don’t care about the total!”

Macron Says He Changed Trump’s Mind on Syria

French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday he “convinced” President Trump to stay in Syria before the United States, United Kingdom and France launched strikes against targets at three sites Friday night, CNN reports.

Said Macron: “Ten days ago, President Trump said the USA’s will is to disengage from Syria. We convinced him that it was necessary to stay.”

U.S. Declares Syria Strikes a Success

“Defense Department officials said on Saturday that American-led strikes against Syria had taken out the ‘heart’ of President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program, but acknowledged that the Syrian government most likely retained some ability to again attack its own people with chemical agents,” the New York Times reports.

“Warplanes and ships from the United States, Britain and France launched more than 100 missiles at three chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs, the officials told reporters, in an operation that President Trump and Pentagon leaders hailed as a success.”

President Trump tweeted: “Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

Trump Says Response to Syria Attack Coming Soon

President Trump said that his administration would be making decisions about its response to a chemical attack in Syria within the next 24 to 48 hours, decrying the action as “atrocious” and “horrible,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Trump: “This is about humanity, and it can’t be allowed to happen.”

New York Times: “The challenge for Mr. Trump’s Middle East policy came on a day when he was already facing a transition in his foreign policy team as his new national security adviser, John Bolton, arrived for his first day on the job and the president was scheduled to host the nation’s senior military leaders for dinner at the White House.”

North Korea Confirms Summit Is On

“North Korea’s government has communicated with the United States to say that leader Kim Jong Un is ready to discuss his nuclear weapons program with President Trump, officials said Sunday, increasing the likelihood that the unprecedented summit will actually occur,” the AP reports.

“The confirmation from Pyongyang directly, rather than from third countries like South Korea, has created more confidence within Trump’s administration about the wisdom of holding such a meeting, as U.S. officials make secretive preparations.”

Trump Raises Prospect of Missile Strike on Syria

President Trump “promised a ‘big price’ to be paid for what he said was a chemical weapons attack that choked dozens of Syrians to death the day before, and a top White House official said the administration would not rule out a missile strike to retaliate against the government of President Bashar al-Assad,” the New York Times reports.

“In a tweet, Mr. Trump laid the blame for the attack partly on President Vladimir Putin of Russia, the first time since his election that he has criticized the Russian leader by name on Twitter.”

Trump Imposes New Sanctions on Putin Cronies

“The Trump administration imposed new sanctions on seven of Russia’s richest men and 17 top government officials on Friday in the latest effort to punish President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle for interference in the 2016 election and other Russian aggressions,” the New York Times reports.

“The sanctions are designed to penalize some of Russia’s richest industrialists, who are seen in the West as enriching themselves from Mr. Putin’s increasingly authoritarian administration.”

Washington Post: “The move is likely to provoke a strong response from Moscow, which has expressed increasing exasperation with Washington.”

Tillerson’s $12 Million Legacy

Politico: “It was one of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s core goals: radically reshaping the State Department to make it leaner, cheaper and modernized to the standards of a former private-sector CEO. Now that Tillerson has been fired, the vaunted ‘Redesign’ initiative he launched faces an uncertain future, but at least one clear legacy: around $12 million dollars spent just for private consultants who in some cases charged the State Department more than $300 an hour.”

“As many as 90 consultants worked on the project, according to one document. Many of the consultants have spent extensive time at the State Department, meeting with top officials, collecting and analyzing data, creating PowerPoint presentations and leading group discussions with skeptical employees.”