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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."

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”