Thursday, July 9, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt four)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

North Korea’s approach was different. Kim sent Trump one of his famous “love letters” at the beginning of August, criticizing the lack of progress since Singapore and suggesting the two of them get together again soon. Pompeo and I agreed such a meeting needed to be avoided at any cost, and certainly not before the November election. Under such political pressure, who knew what Trump might give away? We also agreed the best response to the letter was to say Pompeo was ready to return to Pyongyang at any time. When I showed Trump Kim Jong Un’s letter and explained our recommendation, however, Trump said immediately, “I should meet with Kim Jong Un. We should invite him to the White House.” This was a potential disaster of enormous magnitude. I suggested instead meeting in New York at September’s UN General Assembly opening, but Trump wasn’t having it: “No, there are too many things going on then.” By this time, others had come into the Oval, including Kelly, to whom I whispered on the way out, “There is no way he should meet again with Kim.” Kelly completely agreed. Pompeo, traveling in Asia, called in the late afternoon, and I explained what had happened. He said, “I want to see the picture of the look on your face when POTUS said he wanted a White House visit!” That would have been hard, I said, because they would first have had to peel me off the rug on the Oval Office floor. Trump tweeted to Kim that afternoon, “Thank you for your nice letter—I look forward to seeing you soon!” Although it was dicey, we drafted a letter Trump signed the next day, offering up Pompeo in Pyongyang. Trump said he didn’t like the idea, which he thought was insulting to Kim: “I disagree with you and Pompeo. It’s not fair to Kim Jong Un, and I hope it doesn’t ruin things,” he said as he wrote in his own hand at the bottom of the letter, “I look forward to seeing you soon.” At least he signed it.

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