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Pre-emptive Strike
May 25, 2018

President Trump decided to pull out of his June 12 summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un while talking with advisers Thursday morning from 7-9 a.m., then dictated his Dear Kim letter — to hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton, according to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) — and released it to the public at 9:43 a.m. without warning allies, members of Congress, or North Korea, all of whom seemed blindsided and upset by the sudden cancelation. Trump and his advisers had only started discussing canceling the meeting less than 12 hours earlier, NBC News reports.

What made up his mind? "The president, fearing that the North Koreans might beat him to the punch, wanted to be the one to cancel first," NBC News says, citing "multiple officials." At 10 p.m. Wednesday, Bolton told Trump about North Korea's public pushback against "political dummy" Vice President Mike Pence and threat to cancel, The Washington Post reports. "Bolton advised that the threatening language was a very bad sign, and the president told advisers he was concerned Kim was maneuvering to back out of the summit and make Americans look like desperate suitors, according to a person familiar with the conversations. So Trump called it off first."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. who met with Kim twice in Pyongyang and was working to set up the meeting, publicly blamed North Korea, telling the Senate Thursday that his negotiators "received no response to our inquiries from them. ... We got a lot of dial tones." Privately, Pompeo "blamed Bolton for torpedoing the progress that had already been made," NBC News reports, citing several administration officials. "One person familiar with the summit preparations said it was Bolton who drove the decision to cancel and that he had convinced Trump to make the move." Bolton's threat of "the Libya model," and Pence's parroting that line on Monday, angered the North Koreans. Peter Weber

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