Updated 12:54 p.m. | President Donald Trump on Wednesday said his administration has received no official notification from the North Korean government about canceling a summit with Kim Jong Un over the dictator’s nuclear arms and long-range missile programs.
“We haven’t been notified at all, we’ll have to see. We haven’t seen anything. We haven’t heard anything,” the president said. “We will see what happens.
“Time will tell,” Trump said with a smirk alongside Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in Washington for meetings, in the Oval Office.
Kim on Tuesday objected to long-planned military exercises between the U.S. and South Korean military. He also put the kibosh on high-level talks with the South.
Asked if he will insist during the possible summit on the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Trump replied: “Yes.” Experts say that could be a sticking point if and when the two leaders hold their talks.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump’s top spokeswoman said White House officials remain “hopeful” that the planned summit will continue despite the North Korean leader’s threat to cancel what would be an unprecedented meeting.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump is ready to meet with Kim, adding Kim’s threat — which could be a play for leverage — is “not something that’s out of the ordinary in these types of operations.”
“We’re still hopeful that the meeting will take place. And we’ll continue down that path,” Sanders told Fox News. “But at the same time, we’ve been prepared that these could be tough negotiations.
“The president is ready if the meeting takes place. And if it doesn’t, we’ll continue the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign that’s ongoing,” she said, referring to the U.S.-led sanctions and economic pressure campaign that even includes some of North Korea’s few allies like China.
Sanders echoed her boss in leaving open the door to a ratcheting up of the U.S.-North Korea showdown if the Trump-Kim summit falls through. “It looks great. We’re very optimistic,” she said.
“And if it happens, that’s great,” Sanders said. “And if it doesn’t, we’ll see what happens.”
Meantime, White House officials expect Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel to clear the Senate Intelligence Committee favorably later Wednesday and be confirmed by the full chamber in the next few days, she said.
And when asked about a comment a White House communications staffer reportedly made about Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain’s declining health, the White House’s chief spokeswoman again went after the staffer who leaked it to the media.
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“I can tell you there are a couple of bad actors. I think it’s disgusting and some of the most disgusting behavior you can ever engage in,” she said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to work for the president and to be a part of his administration. And anyone who betrays that, I think, is a total and complete coward. And they should be fired.”
But on Capitol Hill, senior and rank-and-file Republicans want the communications staffer, Kelly Sadler, to publicly apologize. (The White House contends she personally apologized during a telephone conversation with McCain’s daughter.)
“Well, the person who said that, should apologize, and should apologize publicly,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday after a GOP caucus lunch meeting with Trump at the Capitol ended.
But no GOP member brought up Sadler’s comment and their collective wish she publicly say she is sorry for it while they were face-to-face with the president for about an hour behind closed doors.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee said the luncheon powwow was not the right setting to press Trump on the matter.
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