Trump meets Kim under looming Cohen testimony

Trump meets Kim under looming Cohen testimony
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE sat down with Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Wednesday to begin his second summit with the North Korean leader, a meeting that will compete for attention with public testimony later in the day by Michael Cohen, the president's former personal attorney. 

At 6:30 p.m. Vietnam time, Trump and Kim walked toward each other in front of a backdrop of U.S. and North Korean flags and then shook hands and posed for photos while the president laughed at what appeared to be a comment from Kim. 

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“I think we’ll be very successful,” Trump said, adding he and Kim have a “great relationship.”

The president expressed a positive and upbeat attitude, saying he “thought the first summit was a great success” and adding he hopes “this one is equal or greater.”

Asked whether he has walked back his vow to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, Trump responded, “No.”

Trump argued that North Korea could thrive economically like Vietnam if Kim were to give up his nuclear ambitions.

“Your country has tremendous economic potential, unbelievable, unlimited,” he said. “I look forward to watching it happen and to helping it to happen.”

The president said “we’ll see” when asked if he will declare an end to the Korean War at the conclusion of the two-day talks.

Trump did not respond to a shouted question about Cohen during his meeting with Kim but tweeted earlier that Cohen was only “one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately),” a sign the president is also paying attention to the events back in Washington.

“He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time. Using Crooked’s lawyer!” Trump wrote, referring to Cohen adviser Lanny Davis, who once worked for former President Clinton.

Cohen was scheduled to deliver explosive testimony to Congress calling the president a “racist” and a “conman” who knew about major developments in the Russia investigation.

Trump and Kim met one-on-one for roughly 20 minutes before sitting down for what the White House described as a “social dinner” before a longer round of talks Thursday.

Trump sat at a round table next to Kim, and both leaders were joined by their top advisers: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: 1,500 troops heading to Mideast to counter Iran | Trump cites Iran tensions to push through Saudi arms sale | Senate confirms Army, Navy chiefs before weeklong recess Senators say Trump using loophole to push through Saudi arms sale Trump to send 1,500 troops to Middle East to counter Iran MORE and acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit On The Money: Judge rules banks can give Trump records to House | Mnuchin pegs debt ceiling deadline as 'late summer' | Democrats see momentum in Trump tax return fight | House rebukes Trump changes to consumer agency House rebukes Mulvaney's efforts to rein in consumer bureau MORE from the U.S. as well as Kim Yong Chol, who has led the nuclear negotiations for North Korea, and Ri Yong Ho, the foreign minister.

The president again sought to appear cozy with the North Korean leader, saying “our relationship is a very special relationship” while touching Kim’s elbow and expressing hope that their issues will “be resolved.”

Heading into the summit, lawmakers and regional experts have expressed low expectations for what will be accomplished given North Korea’s history of deception and the vague statement that came out of the first summit in Singapore.

At the Singapore summit, Trump and Kim signed a joint statement in which North Korea pledged to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

But the statement did not outline any concrete steps toward achieving that goal.

Trump, though, has been touting his personal relationship with Kim in expressing confidence at making progress in Hanoi.

During remarks at the start of his one-on-one meeting with Kim, Trump said the “biggest progress” made in Singapore was their relationship, which he called “really a good one.”

But Trump also has appeared to be lowering expectations about the speed at which a deal will be made, saying repeatedly before leaving for Vietnam that he is in “no rush.”

“Some people would like to see it go quicker. I’m satisfied. You’re satisfied,” Trump said Wednesday alongside Kim.

With dimming prospects for a sweeping nuclear agreement, experts have said Trump may declare a formal end to the Korean War in exchange for Kim shuttering a major nuclear complex and extending the moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Trump and Kim are expected to hold a more intensive set of talks on Thursday involving staff from both sides. The president also said there would be a press conference, but no details were given.

Wednesday's meeting was marked by a press-access dispute, with only one U.S. print reporter permitted to cover the dinner between the president and the North Korean leader.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the decision was made “due to the sensitive nature of the meetings.”

“We are continuing to negotiate aspects of this historic summit and will always work to make sure the U.S. media has as much access as possible,” she said in a statement.