the art of the deal
August 8, 2018

President Trump's legal team said Wednesday that it wants to narrow the focus of a future interview between the president and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, rejecting Mueller's latest offer, The New York Times reports.

Mueller's team, investigating the Trump campaign's potential involvement with Russian interference in the 2016 election, is negotiating with Trump's lawyers to establish a framework for the sit-down. Trump's lawyers reportedly don't want him to answer questions about obstruction of justice out of concern that he could perjure himself.

The president has disregarded recommendations that he decline to interview at all, instead tasking his legal team with eight months of negotiations over the terms. Attorney Rudy Giuliani expressed his frustration with the process, saying in a statement that it's "time for the Office of Special Counsel to conclude its inquiry without further delay," putting the onus on Mueller to make an interview offer that Trump's legal team can happily accept. However, the Times notes, continually pushing back on negotiations could make Team Trump look like they are purposefully prolonging the process, rather than acting in good faith to plan the meeting.

Mueller has reportedly threatened to subpoena Trump if he does not agree to an interview. Giuliani has insisted that Trump could not be subpoenaed while in office. Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

May 23, 2018

The U.S. will not budge in its insistence that North Korea completely denuclearize, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged on Wednesday.

Speaking to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Pompeo said that the U.S. was prepared to "respectfully walk away" from North Korean officials if they demanded too many compromises, reports Reuters.

President Trump is scheduled to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12, but on Tuesday Trump said there was a "very substantial chance" that the summit would not take place. Other officials expressed doubt about North Korea's commitment, telling The Washington Post that a North Korean delegation didn't show up at a planning meeting with U.S. leaders.

Pompeo was more optimistic, telling lawmakers that the U.S. is still preparing for the meeting with the assumption that Pyongyang will be open to giving up nuclear weapons in exchange for lessened economic sanctions. The U.S. will refuse to kowtow to North Korean wishes, the secretary of state said. "A bad deal is not an option," said Pompeo. "The American people are counting on us to get this right." Summer Meza

May 17, 2018

President Trump on Thursday suggested to reporters that if North Korea refused to make a denuclearization deal, leader Kim Jong Un would "most likely" suffer the same fate as murdered Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

National Security Adviser John Bolton recently angered North Korean officials by saying that Libya's 2003 denuclearization could serve as a model for persuading Kim to give up his nuclear weapons program. The statement alarmed North Korea, as Libya's Gadhafi was killed after surrendering the nuclear program.

When asked about Bolton's comment, Trump misinterpreted the "model," The Guardian reports, and offered his opinion instead on the NATO-led intervention in Libya that led to Gadhafi's death.

"The model, if you look at that model with Gadhafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now that model would take place if we don't make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think [Kim] is going to be very, very happy," said Trump.

Trump said that Bolton "was talking about if we are going to be having a problem" with North Korea, and said the U.S. was "willing to do a lot" to make a deal and work towards a better relationship with North Korea. Summer Meza

May 11, 2018

There's a debate about the value of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's promise to shut down North Korea's largest nuclear test site as he engages in peace talks with South Korea and President Trump's administration, but a study published in the journal Science on Thursday suggests the Punggye-ri site was largely destroyed after Pyongyang's last nuclear test in September. In the new study, researchers from the U.S., China, Germany, and Singapore created a 3-D model of the site based on space-based radar, and they found that the test tunnels continued caving in for hours and days after the explosion, causing more extensive damage than previously believed.

The damage first discerned at the site, under Mt. Mantap, was "dwarfed" by the subsequent collapses, says Sylvain Barbot, an author of the study from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University and the University of Southern California. "These findings make us infer that a large part of the Punggye-ri test site is inoperable and that further test may require a substantial investment in the construction of another facility elsewhere." Kim told South Korean President Moon Jae-in at this historic summit that two of the site's larger tunnels are still in good condition, Seoul says. Kim is meeting with Trump in Singapore on June 12. Peter Weber

November 17, 2017

President Trump may want to be friends with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, but it seems Pyongyang may not feel the same. A North Korean official told Reuters on Friday that negotiations over its nuclear weapons program were out of the question unless the U.S. and South Korea stopped conducting joint military exercises. The exercises on the Korean peninsula are an annual occurrence, but they have long been a point of contention for North Korea.

Trump has previously threatened to "totally destroy North Korea." During his trip to Asia last week, however, he implored the Hermit Kingdom to "make a deal," expressing a desire to open discussions with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program. While Trump may hope that muscular shows of military force and his "madman" theory of diplomacy will bring Kim to the negotiating table, Han Tae Song, North Korea's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, was clear that his country sees the U.S. military presence on the Korean peninsula as a threat to its existence: "As long as there is continuous hostile policy against my country by the U.S. and as long as there are continued war games at our doorstep, then there will not be negotiations," he told Reuters.

Although it has been two months since Pyongyang's last nuclear test, North Korea recently called Trump "a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people" — after the president kinda-not-really-but-sorta-definitely called Kim "short and fat." Kelly O'Meara Morales

November 13, 2017

Local officials in Raqqa apparently negotiated and agreed to the escape of thousands of ISIS fighters in exchange for an end to fighting in the former ISIS capital, the BBC reported Monday. The Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of American-backed Kurdish and Syrian fighters, apparently hired local truck drivers to smuggle ISIS fighters out of Raqqa and told the drivers that they would be transporting families that had been displaced by fighting in Syria.

"We didn't want anyone to leave," Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the Western coalition against ISIS, told the BBC. "It comes down to Syrians — they are the ones fighting and dying, they get to make the decisions regarding operations." One of the truck drivers tasked with transporting the expelled ISIS fighters said the militants "booby-trapped our trucks. If something were to go wrong in the deal, they would bomb the entire convoy. Even their children and women had suicide belts on."

During the drive out of Raqqa, some drivers were beaten and threatened by the jihadists, who reportedly told them, "Let us know when you rebuild Raqqa — we will come back." Drivers who spoke to the BBC said that they have not yet been paid by the SDF.

Former ISIS intelligence chief Abu Musab Huthaifa told the BBC that thousands of ISIS fighters escaped Raqqa and had spread beyond Syria. A French ISIS fighter now in Idlib, a Syria city near the Turkish border, told the BBC, "There are some French brothers from our group who left for France to carry out attacks in what would be called a 'day of reckoning.'"

Read the full account of ISIS's escape from Raqqa at the BBC. Kelly O'Meara Morales

August 9, 2016

Donald Trump loves to negotiate — even, it seems, when it comes to the terms of presidential debates.

In an interview with Time published Tuesday, the Republican nominee confessed that he wants to debate "very badly" and "will absolutely do three debates" with Hillary Clinton — but he needs to make sure the "conditions" are fair before he agrees to anything.

"I'll have to see who the moderators are. Yeah, I would say that certain moderators would be unacceptable, absolutely," Trump said, per Time's report. "I did very well in the debates on the primaries. According to the polls, I won all of them. So I look forward to the debates. But, yeah, I want to have fair moderators … I will demand fair moderators."

Although the terms for general election debates are decided far in advance by a bipartisan committee, Trump seems convinced he can succeed where past candidates have failed in convincing the commission to accept his terms and change a long-established event. "I renegotiated the debates in the primaries, remember? They were making a fortune on them and they had us in for three and a half hours and I said that's ridiculous," Trump said. "I'm sure they'll be open to any suggestions I have, because I think they'll be very fair suggestions. But I haven't [seen the conditions] yet."

Clinton has agreed to participate in all three debates. The first one is scheduled for Sept. 26. Becca Stanek

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