Jun 12, 2018

Axios AM

Good Tuesday morning. President George H.W. Bush is 94 today.

Situational awareness: Primaries are being held today Tuesday in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina and Virginia, bringing the number of states that have held 2018 primaries to 21.

1 big thing: Trump's "message of peace," but a punt on substance
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump declared in Singapore at 4 a.m. ET that "real change is indeed possible," after a stunning summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that was much longer on symbolism than substance.

Ian Bremmer of Eurasia Group tells me, with his trademark punctuation, that the summit "benefits north korea more than the united states ... this is the same fuzzy formulation on 'denuclearization' that they promised the south koreans during their two summits."

  • Bremmer adds that Trump has "made history with the summit. and the risks around north korea are much lower than the fire and fury days."
  • "next big summit: probably putin."

Before heading to the airport, Trump began an hour-long news conference by saying: "It’s my honor today to address the people of the world … I stand before you as an emissary of the American people to deliver a message of hope and vision, and a message of peace."

  • Trump said officials from the two sides, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, "get this stuff done. We want it to get it done. He wants to get it done ... get the ball over the goal line."
  • "Peace is always worth the effort," Trump said. "For seven months, you haven't had a nuclear test. You haven't had a nuclear explosion."
  • Trump mimicked press skeptics, then declared: "I gave up nothing. I'm here. I haven't slept in 25 hours."

Trump said he showed Kim a video (he originally called it a cassette) on an iPad painting a picture of the future that was possible for North Korea ("super everything"). That movie trailer-style video, ending with the declaration "The future remains to be written," played in Korean and English before the presser.

  • "As an example, they have great beaches. You see that whenever they're exploding their cannons into the ocean, right?" Trump said at the news conference.
  • "Wouldn't that make a great condo? ... You could have the best hotels in the world right there. Think of it from a real estate perspective. You have South Korea. You have China. And they own the land in the middle. How bad is that? Right? It's great."

Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in Singapore, in an interview airing at 9 p.m. ET: “We are now we are going to start the process of denuclearization of North Korea ... I believe that he’s going back and will start it virtually immediately."

Be smart: This is a long way from the "Little Rocket Man" and "mentally deranged U.S. dotard" insults of last year, and the legit fear inside the West Wing that America could be on the brink of war. But the summit bought Trump time, rather than guaranteeing denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

2. How it's playing
Kevin Lim/The Strait Times/Getty Images

The flash commentary called the joint statement signed by both leaders a home run for Kim, with Trump basically signing a weak memorandum of understanding:

  • NBC's Andrea Mitchell tweeted from Singapore: "Now that we’ve been given their statement it is far less than advertised. No new commitments. No timetable. No definitions. Glad they met but no breakthroughs."
  • Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Obama, called the statement "much much less than a binding deal. It’s nothing new, ... we gave up a lot for nothing. ... Very thin."
  • NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel said from Seoul that while Trump could claim authentic successes by defusing war talk and getting a declaration of what Engel called "peace in principle," Kim Jong-un was "the biggest winner": "He got the recognition with the president of the United States on a world stage, and all he had to do was sign a piece of paper reaffirming something that he has already said in the past."
  • Ambassador Chris Hill — who served under Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama — said on MSNBC that the document appeared to be "drafted in haste," and is missing words like "verified": "There needs to be a companion action document."

A source close to President Trump told me after the summit that today was about "the longer play":

  • "Everyone got what they wanted out of this. Team MAGA [Make America Great Again] is going to say he’s done more than anyone else ever could and he’s just getting started. His detractors will say there’s no tangible win and he’s either naive or palling around with a dictator while taking shots at democratic allies."
  • "But ... what exactly did we give up? Maximum pressure continues. We didn’t lift sanctions. We got hostages back. We got the players to the table."
  • "Trump approaches some meetings as legitimate 'get it done' interactions, and some as softer personal sessions. This was about establishing supremacy, setting the tone in some way for a longer play."

The source, an experienced judge of Trump's body language, said the president "looked in control and at ease":

  • "There are always smiles and thumbs up, points and nods. But all of Trump’s cues suggested that he thinks he's the dominant player. He decided when to end the first handshake and photo op and escorted Kim offstage."
  • "That being said, Kim gets a P.R. win with his night on the town and by not making any public-facing mistakes in his massive turn on the world stage."
  • "Trump believes he’s got a real chance to pull this off in the coming months. Otherwise he would have either made a big scene and bailed, or demanded some type of quick and public concession so he could claim victory, then go home and regroup."
3. Scenes from the summit
Kevin Lim/The Straits Times/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
4. Scenes from the summit II
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Feline Lim/Reuters
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
5. First look: Trump talks to Sean Hannity in Singapore
Fox News

From a Trump interview by Fox News' Sean Hannity, airing in full at 9 p.m. ET:

  • Hannity: "In the room alone and then the subsequent talks with your team and their team, how honest, how brutal, what was said?"
  • Trump: "So we got along very well. We got along from the beginning."
  • Hannity: "A lot of people critics quickly saying when you said 'Little Rocket Man' or 'fire and fury,' or when he said, 'Oh, I’ve got a red button on my desk,' and you said, 'Well, mine’s bigger and it works better than yours,' how did it evolve from that to this?"
  • Trump: "I think without the rhetoric we wouldn’t have been here. I really believe that. You know, we did sanctions and all the things you would do. But I think without the rhetoric..."
  • More Trump: "[O]ther administrations, I don’t want to get specific on that, but you know they had a policy of silence. If they said something very bad and very threatening and horrible, just don’t answer. That’s not the answer. That’s not what you have to do. So I think the rhetoric — I hated to do it, sometimes I felt foolish doing it — but we had no choice."

Trump also was scheduled to talk in Singapore with Greta Van Susteren for Voice of America.

6. Kudlow in good condition after heart attack

"White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow [age 70]... was in good condition in a Washington-area hospital after suffering a heart attack, the White House said," per Reuters:

  • "Trump announced Kudlow’s heart attack in a tweet sent minutes before he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un."
  • The tweet: “Our Great Larry Kudlow, who has been working so hard on trade and the economy, has just suffered a heart attack. He is now in Walter Reed Medical Center."
  • Sarah Sanders issued a statement calling it a “very mild heart attack”: “Larry is currently in good condition ... and his doctors expect he will make a full and speedy recovery."
7. Jared, Ivanka made $82 million while serving in White House

"Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner ... brought in at least $82 million in outside income while serving as senior White House advisers during 2017, according to financial disclosure forms," the WashPost reports on A1:

  • "Trump earned $3.9 million from her stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington and more than $2 million in severance from the Trump Organization, while Kushner reported over $5 million in income from Quail Ridge, a Kushner Cos. apartment complex acquired last year in Plainsboro, N.J."
  • "The filings show how the couple are collecting immense sums from other enterprises while serving in the White House, an extraordinary income flow that ethics experts have warned could create potential conflicts of interests."
8. Judgment day for AT&T-Time Warner merger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A federal judge will decide at 4 p.m. today whether AT&T can acquire Time Warner for $85 billion, report Axios' Sara Fischer and David McCabe.

  • Why it matters: Today's court decision will shape the media and telecom landscape, as it will set off chain reactions for other media mergers and will help determine how viewers watch video content for decades to come.

A range of possible outcomes:

  • Judge Richard J. Leon could choose one of two straightforward options: clearing the deal or blocking it outright.
  • But he could also green-light the purchase only if certain conditions are met, regardless of whether he finds that it violates antitrust law.

Between the lines: A win for AT&T would probably make it easier for TV networks to merge with a tech or telecom company — essentially fusing the content delivery systems with the content itself.

9. Laurene Powell Jobs' "three-dimensional chessboard"
Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Coming in Sunday's WashPost ... "The Quest of Laurene Powell Jobs: She’s inventing a new brand of philanthropic power ... investing in media, education, sports and more," by David Montgomery:

  • "[L]ast year, Powell Jobs unleashed a series of dramatic moves across a three-dimensional chessboard of American culture. In July, [her] Emerson Collective purchased a majority stake in the Atlantic ... In September, an arm of the collective and Hollywood’s Entertainment Industry Foundation co-opted the four major networks in prime time to simultaneously present an hour of live television, featuring dozens of celebrities inviting the nation to reconceive high school."
  • "[T]he collective partnered with the French artist JR to create two monumental pieces of guerrilla art on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border that went viral on social media as satirical critiques of the border wall. In October, she bought the second-largest stake — about 20 percent — in the estimated $2.5 billion holding company that owns the NBA’s Wizards, the NHL’s Capitals, Capital One Arena and several other sports ventures. The pace continued this year."
  • "In 2013 Powell Jobs commissioned documentarian Davis Guggenheim ('An Inconvenient Truth,' 'He Named Me Malala') to make a film called 'The Dream Is Now' about dreamers hoping to build lives in this country. She wanted it done in a matter of months to have a timely influence on the political debate."
  • "It was typical of Emerson Collective’s approach to issues. Alongside the usual tools of polling and policy advocacy, it will create, say, an 'immigration innovation incubator' to foster tech solutions, and it will enlist artists and storytellers to appeal to the public on alternative channels."
  • "On all her issues, as she masters the eclectic levers of influence she is fashioning to her ends, she has the resources to sway the debate in a way that some might question — but few can match."
  • Keep reading.
  • Disclosure: Emerson Collective is an investor in Axios.
10. 1 Lin thing
Alexander Hamilton exhibit at Smithsonian National Postal Museum shows Vice President Aaron Burr (right) and Hamilton dueling at Weehawken, N.J., on July 11, 1804. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

"'Hamilton' is finally coming to the nation's capital, and the city is preparing in ways that only Washington can," AP reports:

  • "Lin-Manuel Miranda's genre-bending historical musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton is starting a three-month run at the Kennedy Center" today."
  • "Hamilton didn't actually spend much of his life or professional career in Washington. The U.S. capital was in Philadelphia when he served as the nation's first treasury secretary, and the federal government didn't move to Washington until 1800, four years before his death."
  • "The Postal Museum has already launched an exhibit, 'Alexander Hamilton: Soldier, Secretary, Icon,' that includes mail, portraits, and postage and revenue stamps reflective of Hamilton's life and career."
  • "But the real prize of the exhibit are the two flintlock pistols made of walnut, brass and gold that were used in the July 11, 1804, duel with Vice President Aaron Burr, which resulted in Hamilton's death."

Thanks for starting the day with us. Summit coverage all day on Axios.com.