Updated Apr 19, 2018

How leaking Pompeo’s North Korea trip could backfire

CIA Director and Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump’s leak of a secret meeting between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has the potential to overcome two looming obstacles: Democratic opposition to Pompeo's nomination as Secretary of State and growing international anxiety about weak American preparation for the North Korea negotiations.

Yes, but: Even if the leak helps to address those immediate challenges, it may turn out to have been an act of desperation that undermines the U.S.'s larger strategic objectives in North Korea.

As Democratic opposition to Pompeo's nomination mounts, his chances of making it through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have narrowed. Without that support, his confirmation vote will be forced straight to the floor — a path not seen in almost a century. News of the Pyongyang trip will shore up Pompeo's diplomatic bona fides and make a floor win more likely.

Nonetheless, the world has watched anxiously as Trump’s North Korea strategy has careened from talk of “fire and fury” to direct in-person meetings deemed unthinkable by previous presidents. This head-spinning policy has created real concerns abroad that without adequate preparation the talks will collapse, prematurely foreclosing diplomacy and potentially paving a path to war.

Trump's leak has now squandered the discreet diplomacy Pompeo was engaged in, making a nuclear even deal harder to achieve. After all, the best American negotiations — Nixon’s opening to China, Israeli-Egyptian peace, the restoration of ties to Cuba —made most of their progress in secret, away from the glare that shrinks the political space available for flexible compromise and decision-making. Leaders on both sides of the table need to make politically unpopular compromises if they’re going to get a deal.

The bottom line: Trump’s move may look smart at first, but it has the potential to backfire spectacularly — on Pompeo, North Korea and the rest of us too.

Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

Go deeper

The cost of going after Bloomberg

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Here's the growing dilemma for 2020 Democrats vying for a one-on-one showdown with frontrunner Bernie Sanders: Do they have the guts — and the money — to first stop Mike Bloomberg?

Why it matters: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren all must weigh the costs of punching Bloomberg where he looks most vulnerable: stop-and-frisk, charges of sexism, billionaire entitlement. The more zealous the attacks, the greater the risk he turns his campaign ATM against them.

How Trump’s economy stacks up

Source: "Presidents and US Economy", Trump figures through 2019 courtesy of Alan Blinder; Note: Data shows real GDP and Q1 growth in each term is attributed to the previous president; Chart: Axios Visuals

Average economic growth under President Trump has outpaced the growth under Barack Obama, but not all of his recent predecessors.

Why it matters: GDP is the most comprehensive economic scorecard — and something presidents, especially Trump, use as an example of success. And it's especially relevant since Trump is running for re-election on his economic record.

Coronavirus cases rise as 14 American evacuees infected

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

14 Americans evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the novel coronavirus before being flown in a "specialist containment" on a plane repatriating U.S. citizens back home, the U.S. government said early Monday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 1,770 people and infected almost 70,000 others. Most cases and all but five of the deaths have occurred in mainland China. Taiwan confirmed its first death on Sunday, per multiple reports, in a 61-year-old man with underlying health conditions. Health officials were investigating how he became ill.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Health