As you might expect things aren’t always as they seem in the White House. And this is especially true of yesterday’s decision by Trump to cancel the N. Korean summit.
According to an NBC News report, John Bolton was the man who convinced Trump to cancel the denuclearization summit with the N. Koreans. But there was disagreement over that decision by Trump’s State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo:
Early Thursday morning, after a flurry of calls with a handful of senior advisers, an angry President Donald Trump personally dictated the three-paragraph letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that canceled the scheduled summit between their two nations.
It had been less than 12 hours since Trump and his team began grappling intensely with the prospects for shelving what would have been a historic meeting between the two heads of state.
White House officials said discussions about cancelling began in earnest late Wednesday and included the president, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Bolton behind the decision…Pompeo felt blindsided:
One person familiar with the summit preparations said it was Bolton who drove the decision to cancel and that he had convinced Trump to make the move. Trump then relayed his decision to Pompeo, who felt blindsided, according to multiple officials.
The move exposed significant disagreements among the president’s top advisers. Several administration officials said Pompeo, who has taken the lead in negotiating with the North Koreans, blamed Bolton for torpedoing the progress that had already been made. Pompeo flew to Pyongyang twice, met personally with Kim and helped secure the release of three Americans who had been held there. Bolton, a longtime national security hawk who has publicly advocated for regime change in North Korea, was integral, these officials said, to convincing Trump to back out of the summit.
But another senior official pushed back on any tension between Pompeo and Bolton, describing the four principals as a “pretty tight-knit group” on this topic.
Trump’s thinking on the decision to cancel…
But the president, fearing that the North Koreans might beat him to the punch, wanted to be the one to cancel first, multiple officials told NBC News.
“There was no hint of this yesterday,” a person briefed on the summit preparations said, calling Trump’s decision “high risk, high reward.”
A driving factor for the president was the belief that Kim was heading toward a similar conclusion.
Unhappy with Mike Pence?
One person close to Trump said that the president was unhappy with Pence for public remarks he made earlier this week that appeared to threaten Kim with the prospect of regime change if North Korea didn’t meet America’s terms to rid itself of nuclear weapons. “This will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jung Un doesn’t make a deal,” Pence said Monday.
A senior administration official said if the president was indeed unhappy with his vice president, he did not express it directly — adding that Pence’s “Libyan model” comments should not have come as a surprise to President Trump.
As you can see, there is mixed reporting on some of this, so take it for what you will. But I suspect there’s more truth to the tensions than not.
Also, it looks like I was right yesterday in my suspicions that Trump dictated the letter.
(Top Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)