IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Love connection: Why intel officials are worried about the Trump-Kim summit

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: U.S. President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore
President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018.Kevin Lim / The Straits Times via Reuters file

WASHINGTON — When Donald (Trump) met Kim (Jong Un) last June, it was an instant connection.

"He's got a great personality. He's a funny guy. He's very smart. He's a great negotiator. He loves his people,” the president said of North Korea’s leader.

“We fell in love,” Trump added on the campaign trail in September.

And that’s why U.S intelligence officials are increasingly concerned about Trump’s upcoming second meeting with Kim in Vietnam — as North Korea has CONTINUED developing its nuclear arsenal after the first summit, NBC’s Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube report.

“‘One of the worst possible outcomes is he makes some crazy deal pledging to withdraw U.S. troops for a vague promise of denuclearization,’ said one former senior U.S. official.”

More: “Among the possible incentives the U.S. could offer North Korea during the summit is to establish diplomatic interests sections, one in Pyongyang and one in Washington, D.C., according to current and former U.S. officials.”

And: “The U.S. could also offer to formally end the war on the Korean Peninsula, more than six decades after North Korea and the United Nations Command signed the 1953 Armistice Agreement.”

Why does this worry intelligence officials?

As Lee and Kube write, some officials are concerned that the above outcomes could “amount to a de facto U.S. recognition of North Korea as a nuclear state.”

And that could happen even without significant concessions from Kim.

It all underscores the question: Why does Trump assail authoritarian leaders in some countries (Venezuela) and praise them in others (North Korea)?

Trump embarks for the summit in Hanoi, Vietnam at 12:30 pm ET.

“If this is a witch hunt, Mueller has found a coven”

After a Friday and weekend with Washington on high alert, there was no Mueller report. And there was very little new in the special counsel’s sentencing memo for Paul Manafort.

But as former Obama acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal said on “Meet the Press” yesterday, that temporary inaction shouldn’t distract us from the 34 individuals who have been indicted so far in Mueller’s investigation, as well as the six guilty pleas.

“So if this is a witch hunt, Mueller's found a coven at this point. And looking forward, there are still targets, the smaller ones, like, Jerome Corsi, who said he's going to be indicted, expects to be indicted, and then some potentially bigger fish, as well, both on the indictment front,” Katyal said.

To recap those who’ve been indicted or who’ve pleaded guilty:

  • Trump’s former 2016 campaign chair (Paul Manafort)
  • Trump’s former lawyer and fixer (Michael Cohen)
  • Trump’s former national security adviser (Michael Flynn)
  • Another top Trump campaign aide (Rick Gates)
  • A foreign-policy adviser (George Papadopoulos)

But as Solomon Wisenberg, who was deputy independent counsel under Ken Starr, countered on “Meet,” none of these people has been charged “for criminally conspiring with the Russians, with respect to that campaign.”

So the waiting for Mueller to tie all of these strings together continues …

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Harris on why Medicare for All isn’t socialism

In an interview with NBC’s Kasie Hunt, Dem 2020er Kamala Harris explained that – unlike Bernie Sanders – she’s a capitalist.

“I support capitalism. It, in theory, is something that requires competition, that will allow us to be better and evolve. But there are assumptions also that are wrong, that it applies equally to all people, that all people can compete equally. That's just not the case in America today.”

But then asked to reconcile her support for Medicare for All – under which there would be no private insurance – and capitalism, Harris answered:

HUNT: Do you think [that Medicare for All is] socialist or not?

HARRIS: No, no. It's about providing health care to all people. It's about understanding that access to affordable health care should not be a privilege, it should be a right. It's about understanding that in a democracy, and the way we have constructed our democracy, we at least in concept have said that your access to public education, public health or public safety should not be a function of how much money you have. But in America today, that's not the case. In America today, one of the leading cause of bankruptcy for American families is the inability to pay a hospital bill. That's just simply wrong.

On the campaign trail today, per NBC’s Kyle Stewart: Bernie Sanders attends a CNN town hall in DC…Eric Swalwell makes a stop in New Hampshire at “Politics & Eggs.”

Speaking of Bernie, his campaign announced on Saturday that Sanders would kick off his campaign with rallies in Brooklyn on Saturday, March 2 and Chicago on Sunday, March 3 – all highlighting his past political and civil-rights activism.

Data Download: 1 in 5

That’s the share of Americans who say that they seldom or NEVER interact with someone of a different race or ethnicity (21 percent), according to PRRI.

And check out how that number changes depending on what groups you’re talking about.

White people WITH a college degree? It’s about one-in-10. Whites WITHOUT a college degree? A quarter.

Young people? 19 percent. Seniors? 30 percent.

Democrats? 13 percent. Republicans? 21 percent.

For all the talk about urban elites living in a bubble — and we get it — don’t forget about that OTHER bubble of a not-insignificant share of Americans who rarely encounter someone different than themselves.

ICYMI: Do the right thing?

Trump is calling Spike Lee “racist” after the director called for voters to “mobilize” ahead of the 2020 election.

Virginia Lt Gov. Justin Fairfax is comparing himself to a lynching victim.

The White House plans to create an ad hoc panel to counter climate change science.

Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is teasing a decision about a run in NC-9. (He’ll make an announcement this morning)

Elizabeth Warren says she won’t have any high-dollar fundraisers amid concerns that her online fundraising is lagging.

And the Washington Post has announced the winner of its inaugural Jamal Khashoggi Fellowship – award-winning Saudi scholar and activist Hala Al-Dosari.

And other news clips you shouldn’t miss…

Trump agenda: Penalty delay

Trump delayed his own deadline to increase tariffs on Chinese goods, citing “substantial progress” in talks.

Fewer Americans are opting for careers at the State Department.

Arkansas GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson told one of us(!) that “anybody is free” to challenge Trump.

A group of more than 50 former senior national security officials will issue a statement about Trump’s national emergency.

Kentucky political expert Al Cross asks: What will be Mitch McConnell’s legacy – Senate leader or Trump enabler?

2020: Kamala’s secret weapon?

NBC’s Jonathan Allen reports on Kamala Harris’ plan to make California her secret weapon — and a waste of time for everyone else.

GOP donors are concerned that the Trump re-election campaign doesn’t have a winning strategy, POLITICO writes.

Is Democrats’ best route to the White House through the Rust Belt? The Sun Belt? Both?

The impact of Florida’s new ex-felon voting rules is slow going.

In conservative House districts, Democrats are having to answer questions about the party’s left wing.

Former Clinton staffers are grumbling about Bernie Sanders’ use of private jets during the 2016 campaign.