May 10, 2018

Trump's plan to out-"crazy" North Korea

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

"Unpredictability" is the key to understanding President Trump's negotiating plan as he heads into his roll-the-dice summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

What we're hearing: Trump loves to say that every other U.S. president was predictable. He believes foreign affairs has always been overly scripted and his predecessors were "totally predictable," which let their adversaries run rings around them.

A source who recently spoke to Trump about his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un paraphrased the president's private monologue:

  • "No one knows what I'm going to do. They are over there trying right now to analyze every statement I'm putting out to get a sense of what's going to happen when I walk into the room. But the fact of the matter is nobody knows." 

Trump loves to watch the media try to predict what he's going to do and say about any number of things, including North Korea, and he gleefully tells aides: "They have no idea."

  • “Kim Jong-un’s entire lineage is having people think he might be crazy. Trump’s like: 'You’re crazy? How about this?'” a source said a while back, during the phase of Trump calling Kim "Little Rocket Man" and taunting him by saying he has a bigger nuclear button.

One of the biggest challenges: How will Trump ever know he's struck a good deal after the photo op and North Korea's initially dramatic destruction of some of its nuclear facilities?

  • Verification is the whole ballgame. To believe in a deal we'd have to believe that Kim Jong-un has decided to fundamentally change his country and to do something his family has never done before: giving international inspectors 100 percent visibility into the hermit kingdom. The NYT's David Sanger has a good piece on that problem here.
  • And here's a piece from over the weekend about the view from South Korea: President Moon Jae-in saw last summer that the White House and Pentagon were working on military options in the event Kim threatened the U.S. So Moon went into diplomatic overdrive, using the military crisis to present Kim with economic development plans he'd long wanted to deliver.

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 782,319 — Total deaths: 37,582 — Total recoveries: 164,565.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 161,807 — Total deaths: 2,953 — Total recoveries: 5,595.
  3. Federal government latest: The White House will extend its social distancing guidelines until April 30.
  4. State updates: Rural-state governors say testing is still inadequate, contradicting Trump — Virginia, Maryland and D.C. issue stay-at-home orders to residents, joining 28 other states.
  5. Business latest: Ford and General Electric aim to make 50,000 ventilators in 100 days.
  6. In photos: Navy hospital ship arrives in Manhattan.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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First U.S. service member dies from coronavirus

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

The Pentagon on Monday announced the death of a member of the New Jersey National Guard who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: It's the first U.S. service member — active, reserve or Guard — to die from the virus, according to the Pentagon. The guardsman passed away on Saturday after being hospitalized for the novel coronavirus on March 21.

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Workers extracting oil from oil wells in the Permian Basin in Midland, Texas. Photo: Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images

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