Trump Slams the NYT for Reporting What a White House Official Told Them

He says the press call about North Korea didn’t happen even though it definitely did.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.Kcna/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

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The on-again, off-again summit between the US and North Korea has caused apparent confusion within the White House, as the president and his senior staff are now saying two different things—first, about whether a meeting between the two heads of state would be productive, and then about when it might be scheduled.

On Thursday President Donald Trump canceled the summit that had been planned for June 12. He pointed to the “tremendous anger and open hostility” from the North Koreans after John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, suggested that the US would apply the “Libya model” in its approach to North Korea and its nuclear weapons stockpile. (He was referring to the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi agreeing to give up nuclear ambitions in 2003 only to be murdered by US-backed rebels in 2011.) Then Trump said that Libya was not the model for North Korean nuclear disarmament, but Vice President Mike Pence made reference to Libya again on May 21, which provoked North Korean officials to call Pence a “political dummy” and threaten a “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”

A day after canceling the summit, Trump told reporters that the White House was again talking to the North Koreans and that the summit might happen on June 12 after all. In describing the reversal, the New York Times cited a “senior administration official” as telling reporters that “even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.”

That drew the ire of the president on Saturday who slammed the Times on Twitter: 

As pointed out by freelance journalist Yashar Ali, the official that Trump says “doesn’t exist” was actually Matt Pottinger of the National Security Council, and Pottinger’s statement was recorded (and subsequently posted by Ali). The White House routinely organizes calls during which administration officials brief the reporters on a given topic. 

The Times noted that various officials within the Trump administration have different opinions on how to address the North Korean nuclear situation. Whereas Pence and Bolton spoke publicly about decapitating the North Korean regime, Secretary of Defense James Mattis prefers diplomacy. 

Trump may be learning that resolving the North Korean situation isn’t as easy as he’d assumed. The tension between the US and North Korea is decades old and “complicated,” as this recent Mother Jones video explains:

This post has been updated to include the audio of Pottinger’s statements posted by Ali.

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DONALD TRUMP & DEMOCRACY

Mother Jones was founded to do things differently in the aftermath of a political crisis: Watergate. We stand for justice and democracy. We reject false equivalence. We go after, and go deep on, stories others don’t. And we’re a nonprofit newsroom because we knew corporations and billionaires would never fund the journalism we do. Our reporting makes a difference in policies and people’s lives changed.

And we need your support like never before to vigorously fight back against the existential threats American democracy and journalism face. We’re running behind our online fundraising targets and urgently need all hands on deck right now. We can’t afford to come up short—we have no cushion; we leave it all on the field.

Please help with a donation today if you can—even just a few bucks helps. Not ready to donate but interested in our work? Sign up for our Daily newsletter to stay well-informed—and see what makes our people-powered, not profit-driven, journalism special.

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