Trump's "great man" play on North Korea

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump views the North Korean crisis as his “great man” of history moment.

The big picture: He came into office thinking he could be the historic deal maker to bring peace to the Middle East. He’s stopped talking about that. There’s very little point. The peace deal looks dead and cremated. But Trump wants to sign his name even larger into the history books, and he views North Korea as his moment.

  • Sources close to him say he genuinely believes he — and he alone — can overcome the seemingly intractable disaster on the Korean Peninsula.
  • A source who has discussed North Korea with Trump: “He thinks, ‘Just get me in the room with the guy [Kim Jong-un] and I’ll figure it out.’”
  • But, but, but: His aides are much more skeptical, and some believe the idea of meeting with Kim Jong-un is naive and guaranteed to be fruitless.

Trump “definitely thinks it’s a duel of personalities,” says another source familiar with his thinking about North Korea:

  • “There are important strategic considerations ... but he also very much conceives it as a test of wills and of a contest of one man and another. How they’re going to react, how they’re going to shadow box with each other, and ultimately how they’re going to choose to act.”
  • “During the war of insults between Trump and Kim last year, Trump’s tweets and ‘little Rocket Man’ were pretty carefully calibrated — in his mind, was more intentional, not just popping off.”
  • “He never clearly articulated what he was trying to do. But it seemed he wanted to demonstrate he and the U.S. were unafraid, prepared to take whatever steps necessary and were willing to be direct. He wanted to show dominance over Kim.”
  • “This was something he took a personal interest in and was personally invested in. I’m not sure people thought it was a coherent strategy, and certainly I don’t think the Pentagon signed off on it.”

Be smart: Trump mostly projects strength internally. But there’s also been at least one quiet moment when a source saw Trump reflect on how he doesn’t know what Kim is capable of.

  • That happened during the escalating verbal sparring between Kim and Trump last year: “The stakes had moved so far beyond what he’s dealt with before, he definitely became aware of that.”

P.S. Trump on his planned summit with North Korea, speaking last evening at a joint press conference at Mar-a-Lago with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe:

  • " If we don't think it's going to be successful, ... we won't have it. ... If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go. If the meeting, when I'm there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting."

What's next

Pelosi slams McConnell trial rules as "deliberately designed to hide the truth"

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) claimed in a statement Tuesday that the rules Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has proposed for President Trump's impeachment trial diverge from the Clinton precedent and show he has "chosen a cover-up" over a fair trial.

Context: McConnell made public an organizing resolution Monday laying out the terms for the trial, which include 24 hours over two days for each side to present their cases. It would block evidence discovered in the House impeachment investigation from being presented without a separate vote, and would delay a vote on whether to subpoena witnesses and documents until later in the trial.

Setting the scene for Super Bowl LIV

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After a grueling four months of football, Patrick Mahomes has led the Chiefs out of the darkness and into the Miami sun, where the 49ers football machine awaits them in the Super Bowl.

"The Gunslinger"

Mahomes is 24 years old, arguably the best player in football and he just toppled Tom Brady as the top seller of NFL merchandise. A star has already been born — now he has the biggest stage in sports to showcase his brilliance.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - Sports

Exclusive: The Athletic raises $50 million

Adam Hansmann (left) and Alex Mather (right), co-founders of The Athletic. Photo: Steph Gray, courtesy of The Athletic

The Athletic, a subscription-based digital sports media company, has raised $50 million in a Series D funding round, executives tell Axios.

  • With this investment, the company has raised a total of $139.5 million since its launch in 2016 and is valued at roughly $500 million after the new raise, according to sources familiar with the deal.
Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - Media