Trump and Kim Jong Un to meet in late February

White House announces meeting after president met privately with Pyongyang envoy

President Donald Trump answers a final question while departing a press conference following his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un June 12, 2018 in Singapore. Trump described his meeting with Kim as "better than anyone could have expected." (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump answers a final question while departing a press conference following his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un June 12, 2018 in Singapore. Trump described his meeting with Kim as "better than anyone could have expected." (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Posted January 18, 2019 at 2:48pm

President Donald Trump will meet for a second time with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February, the White House announced after a private meeting Friday with an envoy from Pyongyang.

“President Donald J. Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour-and-a-half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February. The president looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

The White House did not immediately indicate where the Trump-Kim meeting would take place. Switzerland, where the North Korean leader went to school, has been mentioned as a possible host country.

The announcement came as the White House was eager to distract from another damaging bombshell report that Trump directed former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. (Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later called the report “categorically false.”)

The president met with Kim Yong Chol to “discuss relations between the two countries and continued progress on North Korea’s final, fully verified denuclearization,” Sanders announced Friday just minutes before that session was slated to begin at 12:15 p.m. 

The North Korean envoy was in Washington for meetings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but was ferried to the executive mansion for talks with Trump.

Democratic lawmakers reacted to news of the second summit with deep skepticism, after they said last year that Kim got the upper hand in the previous meeting.

The president on Thursday put North Korea in the same league as his proposed southern border wall: “Just like many of the other things we’re doing that could have been done many years ago, whether it’s our negotiations with North Korea, moving the embassy to Jerusalem. So many things were supposed to have been done many years ago, and they weren’t.”

But construction on the barrier has not started, and his inability to get new funding for it has led to the shutting down of a quarter of the federal government.

Trump expressed similar sentiments Monday. “Just like we’re doing the job on North Korea, just like we’re doing the job with China — we’re getting it done,” he told a group of farmers in New Orleans. “We’re getting it done. We’re getting it all done. But it would have been nice if other administrations were able to do it. But we have to do the border.”

The diplomatic dance came after Buzzfeed News published a report Thursday night — citing two law enforcement officials — that Trump directed Cohen to lie during testimony to Congress about the president’s push to build a Trump Tower in Moscow before he was elected and took office.

White House spokespersons spent much of the day declining to answer yes or no when reporters pleaded for a simple answer to the question of whether Trump did direct Cohen to commit perjury. Both committing perjury, and ordering someone to do so, are federal crimes.

Justice Department guidance states a sitting president cannot be indicted. But if special counsel Robert S. Mueller III confirms the Buzzfeed News report, and possibly adds further details, it could intensify pressure from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s left flank to begin impeachment proceedings.

Mueller could even recommend Trump be charged when he leaves office and sheds the legal protections of the Office of the President.

Buzzfeed News reported that after the 2016 presidential election, Trump personally instructed Cohen to lie about his company’s push — led by Cohen — to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in an effort to mask Trump’s involvement in talks that lasted well into the campaign.

The article includes what might be a “game-changing event” with this line: “But Cohen’s testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.”