Trump Caught Between Pompeo, Bolton on Summit, Sources Say

He ultimately sided with Bolton
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2018 6:53 AM CDT
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In this Thursday file photo, President Trump speaks during a signing ceremony for the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

(Newser) – The summit between the US and North Korea is off, at least for now—and officials tell NBC News it's because President Trump wanted to nix things before Kim Jong Un had a chance to. "He doesn't want to be the bride left at the altar," a Pusan National University professor tells Time. NBC characterizes the decision as having been made "abruptly," with discussions starting late Wednesday and key calls taking place between 7am and 9am Thursday; the letter went out at 9:43am. Two higher-ups said to have butted heads: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who wanted to stay the course and build on progress made with North Korea, and National Security Adviser John Bolton, who's long pushed for toppling the Kim regime and wanted out of the summit. Bolton appears to have won the debate, and Trump is said to have dictated the letter to him. Pompeo, meanwhile, was reportedly blindsided, officials say.

"This has been like herding cats," one senior administration official says of trying to get Pompeo and Bolton's goals aligned. One source disputes this showdown, however, telling NBC all players were a "pretty tight-knit group." At least one source says Trump was also irked by Vice President Mike Pence's inflammatory remarks about North Korea—Pence had made reference to what happened to Gadhafi in Libya, angering Kim Jong Un—but a senior administration official downplayed any tension. South Korea's Foreign Ministry issued a statement indicating Pompeo is still working behind the scenes with South Korea's foreign minister, per the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, notes the US is back to using a "pressure campaign" against the North. (North Korea says it's still willing to have a sit-down.)

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