Trump Dings Democrats, Praises Putin in News Conference
After the press conference, Trump boarded Air Force One for a trip to Seoul, South Korea. He has dangled the possibility of a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone between the two countries. He tweeted about the plan Friday night, and noted at the news conference that Kim reads his tweets and that North Korea is open to the idea (CNN chyron: “Trump says Kim Jong Un follows his Twitter feed.”). It is unclear if Kim has a Twitter account—and if he does whether it’s under his own name.
Negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program appear stalled. Indeed, North Korea’s stockpile of nuclear-weapons material has likely grown since Trump last year sought to roll back the country’s weapons program through personal diplomacy.
Trump walked out of a summit meeting with Kim in February as talks broke down. If they do meet this weekend, Trump said, it would be a quick hello and a handshake. He said he’d be willing to cross the DMZ and see Kim in North Korean territory. “I feel very comfortable doing that,” he said, following a blitz of meetings over the past two days with Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and other foreign counterparts.
Trump said he and Xi made progress in settling a trade dispute that has shaken financial markets. He said he’ll hold off on imposing additional tariffs on Chinese goods, while China has agreed to buy more U.S. farm products. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to be a deal, but they would like to make a deal, and if we could make a deal it would be a very historic event. We’ve never had a deal with China. We’ve had tremendous (trade) deficits.” The president says he believes that large trade deficits are bad for a country’s economy—a view not shared by many mainstream economists.
Trump was pressed on whether he raised difficult subjects with a pair of autocratic leaders whose affections he deems important: Putin and Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince. Before his meeting with Putin at the G20 conference in Osaka, reporters had asked Trump if he would tell the Russian leader not to interfere in the 2020 elections, as U.S. intelligence agencies believe happened in 2016 . Trump smiled and wagged his finger at Putin: “Don’t meddle in the election, please,” he said. At the press conference, Trump said that he and Putin “did discuss it a little bit after that.”
He added, though, “He denies it totally. How many times can you get somebody to deny something? He has in the past denied it. He’s denied it also publicly.”
A reporter asked the president about an interview Putin gave the Financial Times, in which the Russian leader case pluralistic, liberal societies as outmoded.
Trump seemed to misunderstand the question, though, interpreting the word “liberal” in an American political context. Putin, he said, “sees what’s going on” in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other U.S. cities “run by an extraordinary group of liberal people.” He went on to say that Putin “does see things that are happening in the United States that would probably preclude him from saying how wonderful it is.”