President Donald Trump said Thursday he will likely use a South Korea trade pact as leverage in talks with its northern neighbor, and predicted Congress will not take up an infrastructure bill until after November’s midterms.
“Because it’s a very strong card,” he said in Ohio about the revised trade agreement with Seoul, adding he likely will withhold final approval until talks with Pyongyang had played out.
The remark revealed part of his strategy for securing a deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: He intends to press South Korean officials to be tough on Kim during a coming North-South summit, and again during potential talks that could include him.
The White House earlier this week announced an agreement in principle with South Korea that revises a trade pact Trump said has been a negative for American workers and companies.
As he often does, Trump opted for a freewheeling event in Richfield, Ohio, rather than sticking to the ostensive topic of the day: his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.
“We probably have to wait until after the election,” he said of any potential infrastructure legislation, adding this was because Democrats are eager to prevent him from getting any more “wins” before November.
Senior aides said Wednesday they expect some of his $1.5 trillion overhaul plan could move through Congress this year, with the other parts to follow in 2019.
Trump devoted only about half of Thursday’s remarks to his plan for the country’s roads, bridges, airports, tunnels and seaports. What he did say about the plan in the Buckeye State was intended to breathe life into a proposal that is stalled on Capitol Hill.
Conservative Republicans have blanched at its cost, especially since many lawmakers and experts say it would require more federal dollars than the White House estimates. Trump is proposing using 80 percent private funds, with federal monies making up the remainder. Democratic members contend his plan relies too much on private money.
Collectively, it is difficult to see how the White House will wrangle ample votes in both chambers to pass its plan as is.
The president, as he often does, did not stick to his prepared remarks about rebuilding America’s infrastructure.
Among the list of other topics that dominated his appearance, which at times felt like the campaign-style rallies he relishes: the economy, veterans care, how much “waste” is in a massive omnibus spending bill he reluctantly signed Friday, slashing federal regulations, global trade, America’s post-9/11 military operations, “protecting our law enforcement,” and his 2016 election victory — one of his favorite topics.
“Remember,” he said with a smile, “you can’t win unless you win the state of Ohio.”
The TV ratings-obsessed president also gave a shout out to comedian Roseanne Barr, whose rebooted ABC sitcom debuted to a Tuesday night audience of 18 million. “Look at Roseanne! Look at her ratings?!” a clearly impressed Trump roared to applause.
One topic, however, that did not come up: Porn actress Stormy Daniels’ accusations that she was threatened and later paid to remain quiet about a 2006 consensual sexual encounter with Trump. In the days after she told her story Sunday night on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Trump went dark. The Ohio remarks, in fact, were his first in public since then.
Daniels has said they had unprotected sex in his hotel suite during a celebrity golf tournament. The president has not addressed her charges, but White House aides say he denies them all.
Watch: Trump’s Threat to North Korea in UN Address