President Trump professed Thursday to know no more than the reporters questioning him about whether North Korea might cancel his scheduled meeting next month with its leader, Kim Jong Un.
“We have not been told anything,” Trump said during a brief question-and-answer session, as he met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “We’re just reading stories like you are.”
North Korea objected Tuesday to joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea. Pyongyang said through its state news agency: “The United States must carefully contemplate the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit amid the provocative military ruckus that it’s causing with South Korean authorities. We’ll keenly monitor how the United States and South Korean authorities will react.”
Trump told reporters Thursday: “I can only say our people are literally dealing with them right now, in terms of making arrangements for the meeting. So that’s a lot different than what you read, but oftentimes what you read — if it’s not fake news — is true. So we’ll see what happens.”
In a tweet last week, the president equated “fake” news with “negative” news. His position appears to be that news reports are credible if they do not reflect poorly on him. Thus he is apparently willing to accept reports that North Korea might back out.
In fact, Trump seems unsure which to put more stock in: the progress of his negotiators or the reports that a meeting could fall through.
On one hand, “they’ve been negotiating like nothing happened,” Trump said of North Korea. “But if you read the newspapers, maybe it won’t happen.”
“I can’t tell you yet,” he added. “I will tell you very shortly. We’re going to know very soon.”
This was Trump in classic, unfiltered form. Contrast his response to answers about the meeting's status with what White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave reporters a short time earlier.
“Look, the president is prepared and will be ready to meet, and we’re continuing to move forward with the preparations, at this point,” Sanders said. “And if the North Koreans want to meet, we’ll be there. And at this point, there is not a lot of change beyond that, and certainly not in our process.”
Sanders, like the president, projected uncertainty about whether the meeting will happen. But it's uniquely Trump-like to drop any pretense of special insight into Kim's thinking and to flat-out say that his administration is “just reading stories like you are.”