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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump will confront Kim Jong-un using "a strategy to impress as well as intimidate" — and is open to planting a U.S. embassy in North Korea.

The big picture: U.S. officials involved in the summit preparations have even discussed enlisting gymnasts and musicians to bring the cultures together, sources familiar with summit prep tell Axios.

  • Part of Trump's expected message is telling Kim how much wealthier he and his people would be if he were engaged with the U.S. A source familiar with the U.S. preparations says Trump likes the idea of iconic American businesses, like McDonald's, eventually getting to North Korea.
  • Trump will insist that the price of engagement — and modern relationships and amenities — is the start of a denuclearization process, a source close to the White House told Axios. 
  • Asked about the plans, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told us: "We aren’t going to discuss internal discussions."

It's part of an anything-goes approach that includes, as scooped last night, the possibility of establishing official relations with North Korea and even eventually putting an embassy in Pyongyang.

  • Trump, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have all discussed the dimension of the offer, sources tell us. 
  • "It would all depend what he gets in return," the source said. "Denuclearization would have to be happening."
  • We're told Trump's view is: "We can discuss that: It's on the table. Let’s see."
  • The bottom line: Aides say Trump is taking nothing off the table going in.

Axios has also learned that the U.S. officials involved in pre-summit discussions have been exploring ways to engage North Korea beyond standard official diplomacy:

  • U.S. diplomats are taking a cue from the "ping-pong diplomacy" of 1971, when the U.S. and China exchanged table tennis players as part of a thaw that led to President Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972.
  • So the Trump team is considering avenues for cultural engagement, including the possibility of the U.S. hosting North Korean gymnasts and Pyongyang's symphony orchestra.

Be smart: Unlike any other meeting with any other leader, Trump is negotiating with someone with similar personality quirks and impulses. He truly believes he will know almost instantly whether he can spin up the deal of the decade. 

  • Trump at Quebec presser, before leaving G7 summit for Singapore, asked how long it'll take him to know if Kim is serious: "I think within the first minute I’ll know. ... Just my touch, my feel. That’s what I do."

Go deeper: Trump's "great man" play on North Korea.

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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 6 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.”

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