Trump: We didn’t pay for release of prisoners from North Korea

President Trump on Thursday evening touted the release of three Americans prisoners from North Korea who arrived home this week, noting that the U.S. did not pay for their release.

“[North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un did a great service to himself and to his country by doing this. But those hostages came out, with respect, we didn’t pay for them,” Trump said during a rally in Elkhart, Ind.

“What he did was the right thing, but they came out for nothing and the others came out for $1.8 billion in cash,” Trump added.

Trump appeared to be referring to a January 2016 deal in which the Obama administration agreed to pay Iran $1.7 billion to settle a case related to the sale of military equipment before the Iranian revolution.

The payment coincided with the release of five imprisoned American citizens who were released in exchange for seven Iranians detained in the U.S.

The White House at the time disputed that it was a ransom payment.

Trump early Thursday morning greeted the three Americans who were freed from captivity in North Korea earlier this week. He has touted their release as an act of good will by Kim ahead of a planned summit between the two leaders on June 12 in Singapore.

“The relationship is good, and hopefully, I mean for all of us, for the world, hopefully something very good is going to happen,” Trump said at Thursday’s rally.

[The Hill]

Reality

In 1979, Iran’s then-monarch Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi paid $400 million to the United States government to purchase military parts. But that year’s revolution toppled the shah, and the military parts were never delivered.

To regain its funds, Iran filed a claim against the United States in 1981 in the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, which adjudicates disputes between the two nations. The body, located at the Hague, was established amid negotiations to end the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis, in which pro-revolution students took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

The $1.7 billion dollars Trump mentioned was a settlement of claims, and was announced by the State Department months before Iranian detainees were transferred back home to America.

Media

Trump, Giuliani hint at release of Americans detained in North Korea

President Donald Trump hinted late Wednesday that three Americans detained in North Korea could soon be released as he prepares for a potential summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“As everybody is aware,” Trump tweeted, “the past Administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean Labor camp, but to no avail. Stay tuned!”

Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, appeared to confirm the news Thursday morning during a FOX News appearance in which he remarked: “We’ve got Kim Jong Un impressed enough to release three prisoners today.”

The developments follow last week’s historic meeting between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, earlier said that releasing the Americans — Kim Hak-song, Kim Dong-chul and Kim Sang-duk, who also goes by Tony Kim — would be a “demonstration of their sincerity” in the lead-up to the U.S.-North Korea summit.

Relatives of one of the men said they are “hopeful” amid the unconfirmed reports that they could soon be released.

South Korean media reports quoted a local activist as saying North Korea had relocated the trio from a labor camp to a hotel on the outskirts of Pyongyang.

“We cannot confirm the validity of these reports,” a State Department official said.

[NBC News]

Reality

Two of the three prisoners were only jailed after Mr Trump’s inauguration last year and amid an escalating feud between the Republican and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Trump Calls Kim Jong Un ‘Very Open,’ ‘Very Honorable’

As President Donald Trump says he’s planning for talks with North Korea, he called the country’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, “very open” and “very honorable.”

“Kim Jong Un was, he really has been very open, and I think very honorable from everything we’re seeing,” Trump told reporters in the White House Tuesday. “Now, a lot of promises have been made by North Korea over the years, but they’ve never been in this position.”

Trump made the remarks as he met with French President Emmanuel Macron, who had just participated in an official White House welcoming ceremony on the second day of his U.S. visit.

“We have been very, very tough on maximum pressure, we have been very tough on, as you know, trade, we’ve been very, very tough at the border, sanctions have been the toughest we’ve ever imposed on any country, and we think it’ll be a great thing for North Korea, it’ll be a great thing for the world, so we’ll see where that all goes and maybe it’ll be wonderful and maybe it won’t, and if it’s not gonna be fair and reasonable and good, I will, unlike past administrations, I will leave the table,” Trump said.

The administration has said it intends for a U.S.-North Korea summit to occur near the end of May or in June.

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump Swipes at ‘Pundits’ Talking About North Korea: They ‘Couldn’t Come Close to Making a Deal’

The President of the United States is once again going after TV pundits criticizing him on policy decisions.

President Trump directly called out Chuck Todd on this issue earlier today, tweeting, “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC just stated that we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing. Wow, we haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!”

Now he’s going more generally after “pundits”:

[Mediaite]

Trump Mistakenly Claims North Korea Has Agreed to “Denuclearization”

President Donald Trump took yet another shot at the media on Sunday, this time aiming his fire toward “sleepy eyes” Chuck Todd from NBC. A day after he criticized the New York Times and the Washington Post, the president was mad Sunday morning after Todd said, according to Trump, “we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing.” The truth, Trump went on to write on Twitter, was exactly the opposite. “We haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!” Trump said.

Does Trump know something the rest of us don’t? Or is he just confused about what denuclearization means and what North Korea has said? On Friday, North Korea said it would suspend nuclear and ballistic missile tests before a planned summit with South Korea. But North Korean leader Kim Jong Un never actually pledged to get rid of the country’s existing nuclear weapons and missiles.

Analysts have struck a cautious tone over the promises precisely because North Korea has made similar promises in the past and they never amounted to much. “North Korea has a long history of raising the issue of denuclearization and has committed to freeze its nuclear weapons programs in the past. We all remember how those pledges and commitments went down over past decades,” Nam Sung-wook, a professor of North Korean Studies at Korea University in Seoul, told Reuters.

Trump’s tweet is also a reminder that North Korea’s Kim often means a very different thing when he refers to denuclearization than South Korea or the Western world in general. Whereas the United States and South Korea have long said denuclearization means dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program, North Korea’s Kim has talked about denuclearization of the entire Korean peninsula.

When Trump criticized Todd, he appears to have been referring to this segment:

With his response, Trump makes it clear he doesn’t think he has given up anything to North Korea seemingly without realizing that sitting down for talks in and of itself is a victory for Kim. With his seeming concessions, Kim will be heading to the summits with a recognition from global powers that North Korea is a nuclear nation, which is something the country has long wanted. As one analyst told Axios on Saturday, the issues North Korea says it is willing to discuss, “amounts to “all the trappings of a ‘responsible’ nuclear weapons state (which is what they ultimately wanted to be accepted as).”

In a second tweet Sunday, Trump made clear he knows the North Korean nuclear issue is a long way from being resolved, in a rare note of caution for the commander in chief. “We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t—only time will tell,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

[Slate]

Trump taunts press over North Korea news

President Trump is back to attacking the press again.

After a series of more subdued tweets about North Korea, the President apparently couldn’t resist taking shots at the media again:

Culminating in…

Trump did get some positive media coverage over this week’s announcement. CNN’s Erin Burnett said Trump could go down as a great president if this is successful, and even Bill Maher said Trump could pull it off while telling liberals to stop “reflexively hating” the idea.

[Mediaite]

Trump Confuses North and South Korea

Saturday night, in the middle of a comic speech at the Gridiron Club, President Trump wandered into a completely serious riff about North Korea. “It was headed for disaster and now we’re talking,” he announced. “They, by the way, called up a couple of days ago; they said, ‘We would like to talk,’” Trump said. “And I said, ‘So would we, but you have to denuke.’”

The claim that Trump had spoken with North Korea confounded foreign policy observers. “It was not clear whether Trump was describing a direct conversation or messages sent through diplomatic channels,” reported the Washington Post.

The answer turns out to be: neither. Trump was describing a conversation with South Korea. An official from the National Security Council tells Yonhap News Agency, a South Korean publication, that Trump “was referring to his March 1 phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.” So Trump was close, geographically, but instead of describing a breakthrough exchange with the totalitarian enemy that is developing nukes and threatening to kill us, he was describing the democratic ally that has no nukes and is trying not to be killed.

Trump was right that it was a Korea, but he had the wrong one. There are so many Koreas these days, it is hard to keep track.

[New York Magazine]

Reality

Remember when Trump claimed he had “one of the great memories of all time“?

Trump attacks Wall Street Journal for quoting him accurately on North Korea, as audio confirms

This weekend, the White House has been lashing out at the Wall Street Journal, quibbling over a quote President Donald Trump made about his relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The Journal reported that Trump said, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea,” while the White House contends that Trump said “I’d probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted out Saturday evening that the Journal’s reporting was “fake news.”

Though the Journal had released its audio the day before, Sanders then released the “official” White House audio at midnight Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted his own attacks about the interview, claiming the Journal “stated falsely” that he has a good relationship with Kim Jong Un.

But the Journal stands by its reporting, as well as the transcription provided by an independent transcription service. Neither version of the audio provides any audible or contextual indication that Trump said “I’d” in a line of comments about foreign relationships that were otherwise not conditional. Moreover, the transcript of the interview shows that the Journal’s own reporters clearly heard “I” — not “I’d” — and asked a follow-up question, which the President refused to answer:

TRUMP: …I have a great relationship with him, as you know I have a great relationship with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. I have relationships with people, I think you people are surprised.

WSJ: Just to be clear, you haven’t spoken to the North Korean leader, I mean when you say a relationship with Korea—

TRUMP: I don’t want to comment on it—I don’t want to comment, I’m not saying I have or I haven’t. But I just don’t—

WSJ: Some people would see your tweets, which are sometimes combative towards Kim Jong Un…

TRUMP: Sure, you see that a lot with me and then all of a sudden somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You give me 30. I’m a very flexible person.

It’s unclear exactly what this quibbling is designed to accomplish, though it certainly draws more attention — not less — to the possibility that the White House has a relationship with North Korea of a different nature than it has previously indicated.

It may, however, also be a form of retaliation against the Journal for something totally unrelated. The Journal published its story about Trump’s Kim Jong Un comments on Thursday, then on Friday published a report that shortly before the 2016 election, the Trump Organization paid an adult film star, Stephanie Clifford (stage name Stormy Daniels), $130,000 to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. It was only after this report that the White House began criticizing the Journal’s reporting on the relationship with North Korea.

[ThinkProgress]

Media

Trump called intel analyst a ‘pretty Korean lady’ — and asked why she wasn’t negotiating with Kim Jong Un

President Donald Trump’s latest outburst about immigrants from “sh*thole” African countries is far from his first time making racist statements.

In fact, sources tell NBC News that Trump made a career U.S. intelligence officer uncomfortable last year when he grilled her on her Korean heritage and demanded to know why she wasn’t being used to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

According to NBC News, Trump first asked the officer where she was from after she had finished delivering an intelligence briefing. She replied that she originally hailed from New York City, but Trump pushed her by asking where “your people” originally came from.

At that point, she admitted that both of her parents were from Korea — at which point Trump turned to an adviser and asked them why the “pretty Korean lady” wasn’t being used as an asset to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear arsenal.

“The officials who told NBC News of the fall exchange between Trump and the intelligence briefer in the Oval Office in the fall said the president likely meant no harm with his inquiry, but it raised concern of a lack of cultural sensitivity and decorum,” NBC notes, while also adding that a source close to the president claims that his advisers regularly try to get him to stop talking about people’s race — but to no avail.

[Raw Story]

Trump throws Twitter tantrum over Russia relations and Kim Jong-un calling him ‘old’

President Donald Trump on Saturday lashed out at North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un after state-run media called him a “lunatic old man.”

North Korea also criticized Trump as a “warmonger” as the president toured Asia to drum up support against Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Trump also lashed out at the “haters and fools” who had criticized his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. The two spoke together during the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Vietnam.

Trump faced a backlash after saying he believed Putin, who told him that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

[Raw Story]

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