President Donald Trump insisted Friday he will not get “played” by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in their possible summit over the North’s nuclear arms.
He told reporters in the Oval Office at the start of meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that U.S. and North Korean officials have negotiated the possible list of locations for the planned talks to “two or three sites.” He did not provide any new estimate for when he might meet Kim one-on-one, only saying it should happen in the next few weeks.
Some Democratic lawmakers and foreign policy experts have warned that Kim is not serious and could force an accord on the deal-minded Trump with terms unfavorable to the United States and its allies in the region. A reporter asked the president if he is worried Kim might get over on him in a face-to-face meeting.
“I don’t think he’s playing. No, I don’t think he’s playing.,” Trump insisted, then again slamming previous U.S. commanders in chief for falling for the trickery of Kim and his late father, Kim Jong Il.
“Yeah, I agree, the United States has been played beautifully — like a fiddle,” the president said. “Because you had a different kind of a leader. We’re not going to be played.
“The United States in the past was played like a fiddle. Money going in and nobody knew what was happening. The day after the arrangement was made … they start with the nuclear weapons again,” he said with his typical bravado. “That’s not happening to us.”
But he also seemed eager to manage expectations should he, a self-described once-in-a-generation dealmaker, fail to secure one.
“We’re going to hopefully make a deal,” Trump said. “If we don’t, that’s fine.”
He repeated his vow to walk out of any meeting with Kim if he determines the North Korean dictator is not serious, adding: “This isn’t like past administrations,” he said. “We don’t play games.”
The president also hailed a contentious report about the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe
As reporters were leaving the Oval Office, a reporter got in one last question, asking Trump about his Thursday comments that he is taking a hands-off approach to the Justice Department while its special counsel-led Russia probe is ongoing, though he reserved the option of changing his mind at seemingly any moment.
“Thank you very much, everybody,” the president responded, dismissing the U.S. and German press pools from the Oval Office.
Trump did not want to talk about that aspect of the Russia investigation. But minutes earlier, he brought up the House Intelligence Committee’s just-released report from its own probe. He dubbed that report, which was endorsed only by the panel’s GOP members, “very good” and “totally conclusive.”
Panel Democrats vigorously object to that assessment, however, issuing a rebuttal saying the committee did find evidence of coordination between Trump inner circle members Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, Donald Trump Jr., and others with Russians during the 2016 campaign. The Democrats charged the Republican side with mostly trying to distract attention away from the president with their report.
The partisan squabbling over what the House committee actually found did not stop Trump from delivering his familiar lines about the 2016 campaign and Moscow: “No collusion, no coordination, no nothing,” he said. “It’s a witch hunt. That’s all it is. There was no collusion with Russia.”