A High-Level Encounter

Monday, March 12, 2018Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 9.31.45 AM

Good Monday morning,
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
  • A day after President Trump accepted an invitation to meet Kim Jong-un of North Korea, the White House began planning a high-level diplomatic encounter so risky and seemingly far-fetched that some of Mr. Trump’s aides believe it will never happen.

  • At a Saturday rally in Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump spoke admiringly of foreign laws imposing the death penalty on drug dealers and seemed to brush aside the notion of due process as he spoke of American officers grabbing gang members “by the neck.”
  • Working-class voters are the prize in a widely watched special congressional race on Tuesday, as unions try to line up their pro-Trump members behind a moderate Democrat, Conor Lamb.
  • Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, just became one of the most powerful people in Washington as he prepares to spend the next few days deciding which countries, if any, will be exempt from stiff and sweeping tariffs on steel and aluminum.

  • The $1.5 trillion tax cut spawned a host of errors and ambiguities in the law that businesses big and small are just now discovering and scrambling to address.
— The First Draft Team
News Analysis

How Would U.S. Verify That North Korea Is Disarming?

By DAVID E. SANGER
A television screen showing pictures of President Trump and North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday.

A television screen showing pictures of President Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday. Jung Yeon-Je/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Nearly 18 years ago, one of North Korea’s most senior military officers stepped into the Oval Office and handed President Bill Clinton a letter from the isolated nation’s leader, inviting him to Pyongyang.
“If you come to Pyongyang,” Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok told Mr. Clinton as they sat in chairs by the fireplace, “Kim Jong-il will guarantee that he will satisfy all your security concerns.”
It was a remarkable moment — a North Korean emissary in full uniform sitting at the White House for the first time since the armistice that suspended the Korean War in 1953.
Mr. Clinton was cautious, given the enormous complexity of verifying that North Korea would eliminate weapons to strike the United States. The president thanked his visitor — and sent his secretary of state, Madeleine K. Albright, who concluded that the North Koreans were not ready to offer a full, verifiable dismantlement of their missile program. So Mr. Clinton pulled the plug.
If President Trump meets Kim Jong-un, the son of the dictator who made the offer to Mr. Clinton, the challenge of verifying that North Korea is on the way to disarmament will be far, far greater than it was nearly two decades ago.
Read more »
AT&T argues that it is an underdog against online giants like Facebook and Google.

AT&T Backs Off Political Argument in Antitrust Case

By CECILIA KANG

AT&T has said the government blocked the company’s deal with Time Warner because of presidential politics. But that argument was absent in a filing on Friday.

Betsy DeVos, secretary of education, gave a scathing speech to state education chiefs this week, pushing them to innovate and do better by students.

After Demanding Local Control, DeVos Discovers the Limits of States’ Rights

By ERICA L. GREEN

An ardent federalist, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is learning that leaving school policymaking to the states means not always getting what she wants.

Trump Chief of Staff Blocked E.P.A. Chief’s Climate Science Debate

By LISA FRIEDMAN AND JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVISJohn F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, is said to have regarded the “red team, blue team” plan as ill-conceived and politically risky.

The idea for a military-style exercise to question climate science encountered widespread resistance within the administration, officials said.

Heated iron bars at a Hyundai Steel plant in South Korea. In trying to shield their domestic steel and aluminum producers, countries risk creating an every-nation-for-itself atmosphere that would undermine the system for resolving global trade disputes.

U.S. Allies Jostle to Win Exemptions From Trump Tariffs

By JACK EWING

Countries mixed appeals to friendship with threats of retaliation. But the lobbying frenzy risked undermining the ground rules of world trade.

A building under construction in Franklin Lakes, N.J., this week. About 313,000 jobs were added last month.

The Economy Is Looking Awfully Strong

By NEIL IRWIN

Blockbuster job growth in February suggests this economy, already nine years into expansion, may yet have room to run.

In August, North Koreans held a rally against the United States. Just months later the leaders of both countries have agreed to talk for the first time.

Road to Talks Between the U.S. and North Korea Has Been Bumpy

By AUSTIN RAMZY AND EMILY COCHRANE

A meeting between North Korea’s leader and President Trump would be the highest-level talks between the two countries, but there is a long history of failed efforts.

Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s leader, and Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright in Pyongyang in October 2000.

Kim Dynasty Sat Down With a U.S. Leader Before, With Few Results

By JANE PERLEZ

Kim Jong-un’s father met in 2000 with Madeleine K. Albright, Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, in what some viewed as a propaganda victory for North Korea.

Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, a Democrat who represents parts of Brooklyn, said that “there is almost no woman I know who has not been treated differently, and treated badly.”

Tackling Sexual Harassment With ‘Bipartisan Bad Behavior’ in Shadows

By JESSE MCKINLEY

Although leaders in Albany have committed to passing laws to address sexual harassment, some question whether the laws will change the Capitol’s culture.

Emmet T. Flood, left, in 2007, when he was the White House special counsel under George W. Bush.

Trump Disputes Times Report on His Legal Team

By THE NEW YORK TIMES

The Times, in a statement issued by its communications department, said, “We stand by our reporting, which was confirmed by multiple people close to the president.”

Carol Rains, left, an evangelical Christian in Texas, doesn’t regret her vote for President Trump but would like to see another Republican run against him in 2020. Her friend Linda Leonhart agrees: “I will definitely take a look to see who has the courage to take on a job like this and do what needs to be done.”

White Evangelical Women, Core Supporters of Trump, Begin Tiptoeing Away

By MICHAEL TACKETT

While most remain with the president, some are having second thoughts, citing his pettiness, impulsiveness and profanity, even as they say he has delivered on issues.