Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump hasn’t shut the door on the possibility that a North Korea summit could still happen — but for now, he’s warning North Korea not to try anything.

Behind the scenes: A White House official told Axios’ Jonathan Swan: “They literally threatened nuclear war. …[N]o summit will work under these circumstances, when they’re literally threatening our people.”

For now, it’s back to the days of “fire and fury.”

  • Here’s what Trump said this afternoon at the White House: “Our military, which is by far the most powerful anywhere in the world … is ready if necessary.”
  • South Korea and Japan are “ready should foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea.”
  • But, but, but: “It’s possible that the existing summit could take place or a summit at some later date. Nobody should be anxious. We have to get it right.”

Two views on where we’re headed, from Axios Expert Voices:

  • The case for pessimism, from Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations: “There was no way the summit could have succeeded … Better that the summit was postponed than to have ended up in dramatic failure.”
  • The case for optimism, from Tony Blinken, former deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration: “Both leaders still likely want this meeting to happen.”

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Finally, a real debate

Photo: Morry Gash/AP

A more disciplined President Trump held back from the rowdy interruptions at tonight's debate in Nashville, while making some assertions so outlandish that Joe Biden chuckled and even closed his eyes.

  • A Trump campaign adviser told Axios: "He finally listened." 

The result: A real debate.

Biden to Trump: "I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life"

Former VP Joe Biden pushed back Thursday against allegations from President Trump, saying he had never profited from foreign sources. "Nothing was unethical," Biden told debate moderator Kristen Welker about his son Hunter's work in Ukraine while he was vice president.

Why it matters: Earlier on Thursday, Hunter Biden's former business partner, Tony Bobulinski, released a statement saying Joe Biden's claims that he never discussed overseas business dealings with his son were "false."

Trump claims COVID "will go away," Biden calls his response disqualifying

President Trump repeated baseless claims at the final presidential debate that the coronavirus "will go away" and that the U.S. is "rounding the turn," while Joe Biden argued that any president that has allowed 220,000 Americans to die on his watch should not be re-elected.

Why it matters: The U.S. is now averaging about 59,000 new coronavirus infections a day, and added another 73,000 cases on Thursday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The country recorded 1,038 deaths due to the virus Thursday, the highest since late September.