Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday denied that President Donald Trump ever claimed North Korea no longer looms as a nuclear threat. But CNN’s Jake Tapper was ready with the receipts.
Pompeo, during an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State Of The Union,” discussed the summit between the U.S. and North Korea slated for this week in Hanoi, Vietnam. Asked if he believes North Korea remains a nuclear threat, Pompeo said yes.
“But the president said he doesn’t,” Tapper said.
Pompeo immediately dismissed the CNN host’s claim, saying, “That’s not what he said. I know precisely what he said.”
Tapper responded by quoting one of Trump’s June 2018 tweets in which the president proclaimed, “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” The declaration came hours after an historic meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jon Un in Singapore.
But Pompeo, seemingly ignoring the facts laid out before him, decided to rewrite history on Sunday.
“What [Trump] said is that ― what he said was that the efforts that had been made in Singapore ― this commitment that Chairman Kim made ― have substantially taken down the risk to the American people,” Pompeo said.
“OK, I mean that’s just a direct quote,” Tapper said before moving on to a new line of questioning.
Democratic lawmakers have criticized Trump not taking a stronger stance against Kim, the authoritarian leader of North Korea who, like his late father, Kim Jon Il, has prioritized development of his country’s nuclear capabilities.
Following the Singapore summit, Trump claimed he had accomplished what no other U.S. president had been able to do: get North Korea to agree to denuclearize.
“He’s de-nuking,” Trump has claimed. “I mean he’s de-nuking the whole place.”
Many North Korea experts believe Kim has played Trump for a fool, pointing to satellite images that indicate the hermit country is continuing to develop its ballistic missiles program despite its vow to denuclearize.
A New York Times story in November reported that the images “suggest that the North has been engaged in a great deception: It has offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads.”
In September, Trump reiterated his admiration for Kim, a ruthless dictator who is widely believed to have ordered the execution of his own uncle and half-brother.
“He wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters,” Trump said at a rally in West Virginia. “We fell in love” at their summit.
Pompeo said Sunday he’s optimistic that Kim will give up his nuclear weapons, despite the track record of North Korea regimes refusing repeated requests by the U.S. over the years that it do so.
“We’ve made it very plain to Chairman Kim,” he told Tapper. “The alternative to giving up his nuclear weapons is remaining a pariah state, remaining a nation that is unable to trade, unable to grow, unable to take care of its own people.”
Pompeo added: “We’ve also told them there will be real opportunities ― that countries from around the world will come make his economy one that looks more like South Korea’s economy.”