May 26, 2019

Sarah Sanders defends Trump siding with Kim Jong-un on Joe Biden

Speaking from Tokyo in her first "Meet the Press" interview ever, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told NBC's Chuck Todd that President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un "agree in their assessment" of former Vice President Joe Biden, who Trump called a "low IQ individual" in a tweet Monday evening.

TODD: Can you explain why Americans should not be concerned that the president of United States is essentially siding with a murderous authoritarian dictator over a former vice president in the United States?
SANDERS: Chuck, the president's not siding with that. But I think they agree in their assessment of former Vice President Joe Biden. Again, the president's focus in this process is the relationship he has and making sure we continue on the path towards denuclearization. ... The president watched [Biden] and his administration with President Obama fail for eight years. He's come in in two and a half, he's cleaned up a lot of the messes that were left behind. We shouldn't even be in the position that we're in to have to deal with North Korea at the level we are if they had done their job in the first place.

Why it matters: This is not the first time that Trump has taken the side of a foreign authoritarian over Americans that he deems his political enemies. As Axios has previously reported, Biden has been in Trump's head for months. His advisers take the former vice president very seriously and see him as Trump's biggest threat to re-election — and have been surprised to see him dominating early in a primary that was expected to be steered by left-wing activists.

The big picture: Sanders, like Trump on Sunday, downplayed the significance of North Korea's recent missile tests, saying none of them have posed "a threat" to the U.S. or its allies.

Todd challenged her on comments by the prime minister of Japan and by national security adviser John Bolton that North Korea had violated a UN resolution with its tests. Sanders deflected the question and reiterated what has long been Trump's stance on foreign diplomacy: He believes in his personal relationship with Kim and that the dictator "will stay firm with the commitment that he made to the president and move towards denuclearization."

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