The Moon-Kim Summit

South Korea’s President Moon Jae In met yesterday with North Korea’s President Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital. They participated in a parade and discussed the future of the Korean Peninsula.

It’s best to rely on the official English translation of their joint statement, rather than statements for the news media or by third parties. The Korean version is more reliable, but I don’t understand Korean. Here’s the part about North Korea’s nuclear program.

  1. The two sides shared the view that the Korean Peninsula must be turned into a land of peace free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threats, and that substantial progress toward this end must be made in a prompt manner.
  • First, the North will permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform under the observation of experts from relevant countries.
  • The North expressed its willingness to continue to take additional measures, such as the permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon, as the United States takes corresponding measures in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement.
  • The two sides agreed to cooperate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The bottom line is that much more negotiation that includes the United States is necessary. Specifically,

the North will permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform – This is a positive step, but North Korea has developed mobile launchers for its missiles, including the intercontinental missiles that can reach the United States. Building a new test site would not be difficult.

under the observation of experts from relevant countries – Again, a positive step to include experts. North Korea explicitly excluded experts from observing the tunnel closures at its nuclear test site. But “experts” and “relevant countries” remain undefined. Defining them will require more negotiation.

The North expressed its willingness to continue to take additional measures – Willingness is not action, which is fine as long as we understand that.

as the United States takes corresponding measures – The North has insisted on an action-for-action program in which they take a step, and then the United States takes a step. This is not unusual in building confidence between adversarial nations. So far, the United States has insisted on large measures from the North with no promise of specific action from the United States. Look for statements from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on this subject. If he insists on complete denuclearization or a list of North Korea’s nuclear facilities, things are going nowhere. What constitute “corresponding measures” will require more negotiation.

the permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon – North Korea has promised this before. Since it depends on the United States taking “corresponding measures,” it’s unlikely to happen any time soon. The common spelling in the United States is Yongbyon. It’s the obvious central nuclear facility for North Korea. Are there others? We don’t know.

in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement – Donald Trump talks about a handshake and personal understandings. North Korea talks about the Joint Statement. The DPRK is doing what is normally done in diplomacy. Secret personal agreements are no part of it.

The two sides agreed to cooperate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula – “Complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” is a standard formula describing an ideal situation in the far future. It’s good to have this kind of long-term goal stated. So far, the United States has taken that phrase to mean unlateral disarmament by North Korea. Again, look for Secretary Pompeo’s statement on this.

Trump’s statements so far have been relatively moderate. Moon is playing a skillful game to try to involve Trump, which will be necessary as talks proceed. Kim is playing a skillful game to keep his nuclear weapons and his power.


Photo credit


Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.

The Big Bamboozle

In a bizarre interview with The Hill last night, Trump bragged that he is doing the country “a great service” by declassifying documents pertinent to an ongoing investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. What he is actually doing, of course, is trying to further undermine the Mueller investigation and influence the news cycle.

I hope and believe that Adam’s prediction about that effort will come to pass — that it will make Trump and his toadies in the House look like idiots. In The Hill interview, Trump said the declassification could become one of his “crowning achievements” because it will reveal that the FBI was out to get Trump all along when they surveilled Carter Page. The Atlantic covered this odd strategy here:

But it’s looking more and more like House Republicans have chosen to die on a hill that’s shifting below their feet. “Be careful what you wish for,” Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Tuesday. He was indicating, according to an aide, that “it’s simply impossible to review the documents” on Page and conclude anything other than that the FBI “had ample reason” to investigate him. It’s not only Democratic Senators who believe that: Republican Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN in July that he believes the FISA judges had “sound reasons” for issuing the Page surveillance warrant to the FBI. “I don’t think I ever expressed that I thought the FISA application came up short,” Burr said at the time.

But Reps Nunes, Gaetz, Meadows, et al, are doubling down on the Page-as-martyr strategy. It may make sense to people (like Trump) who marinate in Fox News 24/7, but it’ll likely fall flat with everyone else because believing all the Deep State conspiracy crap is a prerequisite of buying the Page-as-victim angle. It would be as if you or I showed up at a city council meeting and started babbling about lost mustard and naked mopping. Any jackals in the audience might find it amusing, but the rest of the crowd would look at us as if we’d lost our goddamned minds.

Anyhoo, there was also this piece of supreme weirdness from Trump in last night’s interview with The Hill:

Trump also said he regretted not firing former FBI Director James Comey immediately instead of waiting until May 2017, confirming an account his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, gave Hill.TV earlier in the day that Trump was dismayed in 2016 by the way Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email case and began discussing firing him well before he became president.

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries,” Trump said. “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. … I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.”

Trump has offered different reasons in the past for his firing of the FBI chief, blaming Comey’s handling of the Clinton case but also linking it to Comey’s actions in the Russian investigation.

Emphasis mine. Of course, Comey served at the pleasure of President Obama when Trump won the primaries and was nominated at the convention. But I suspect Trump was just indulging in mindless superlatives as usual during that interview but was otherwise faithful to talking points created as part of an evolving legal/PR strategy — to claim that he was onto this Deep State conspiracy even before day one and, therefore, Trump fired Comey for the Clinton email investigation rather than to shutdown the Mueller probe.

But believing that dog’s breakfast of a post-hoc justification requires going down rabbit holes within rabbit holes. For instance, recall that the memo Trump ordered Deputy AG Rosenstein to produce to justify firing Comey rightly claimed that Comey’s actions at the conclusion of the email investigation were unfair to Clinton. But now we’re supposed to believe that Clinton was colluding with the Russians to take out Trump, either with the active participation of Comey or via his negligence? Come on, man.

It’s nonsense. But so is everything else Trump says, like the claims this morning that the economic recovery began the day he was elected. You can plot unemployment rates, GDP growth, etc., on a chart that represents a gradual upward trajectory from the Great Recession to the present day and wave it in Trump supporters’ faces, but they won’t believe their lying eyes or lived experience. Nope, the USA was a Dickensian hellscape until 11/9/2016 and the ascension of the Golden Calf.

Will the con work again? I don’t think so. One thing successful con artists know is that you have to move on because the bamboozle only works until it stops working. Ironically, being POTUS is the first real job Trump has ever had. And it looks like the first performance review is going to be all kinds of ugly.

The Lajes’ Protocol IV: The President, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Politicization of the DOJ

The President has ordered a selective declassification of a very limited amount of information related to one of the FISA warrant applications pertaining to Carter Page, as well as text messages intended to make Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page, and Ohr look bad.

My professional take on this is that this declassification order is part of a preplanned strategic communication strategy to try to get the news media off of reporting that is not positive for the President, his administration, the GOP majority in both chambers of Congress, the Kavanaugh nomination, and the upcoming midterms. Apparently the Man from Lajes, also known as Congressman Devin Nunes, agrees.

Here’s Congressman Schiff’s, the ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, statement on what the President ordered:

What’s interesting is that the DOJ and FBI doesn’t seem to have any idea how to proceed.

David Kris, the former Assistant Attorney General for National Security, had this to say:

Also, from Joyce Vance, a former US Attorney, and Julie Zebrak, formerly of both the Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Office.

Here’s what I think is going to happen: the selectively unclassified and unredacted material will be released. Like every previous one of these attempts by either the President and/or his allies like Congressman Nunes, it will quickly be picked apart and make them look silly. Even more important, as was the case a couple of weeks ago regarding what Bruce Ohr’s actual work for the DOJ was about, the US intelligence community will selectively leak in order to knock this selective declassification back. And at the end of the day all that will have happened is the President and his allies in Congress like Congressman Nunes will have simply further damaged and weakened the Department of Justice, the FBI, and other parts of the intelligence community in order to protect their own political and/or legal fortunes.

This is a blatant and obvious attempt to try to change the news reporting, but I just don’t think it is going to work. Especially given the track records of the people involved. The Fox News and MAGA on social media crowd will embrace it, Russian bots and trolls will try to amplify it, but there is too much legitimate news breaking right now for this to really break through. The news for the rest of this week is going to be the Kavanaugh nomination meshugas, the trade war, including new competing tariffs, with China, violent, serial criminal activity by Customs and Border Patrol and ICE officers, and the ongoing news regarding the coming mid-term elections.

Stay focused!

If this is what the senior Florida Republicans think is coming, then no amount of chaff is going to distract the news media from the actual targets!

Open thread.


AP News Open Thread: Julian Assange, the Biter Bit?

This is the AP, not some blog with a history of overreaction, so… cui bono, at this particular moment?

LONDON (AP) — Julian Assange had just pulled off one of the biggest scoops in journalistic history, splaying the innards of American diplomacy across the web. But technology firms were cutting ties to his WikiLeaks website, cable news pundits were calling for his head and a Swedish sex crime case was threatening to put him behind bars.

Caught in a vise, the silver-haired Australian wrote to the Russian Consulate in London.

“I, Julian Assange, hereby grant full authority to my friend, Israel Shamir, to both drop off and collect my passport, in order to get a visa,” said the letter, which was obtained exclusively by The Associated Press.

The Nov. 30, 2010, missive is part of a much larger trove of WikiLeaks emails, chat logs, financial records, secretly recorded footage and other documents leaked to the AP. The files provide both an intimate look at the radical transparency organization and an early hint of Assange’s budding relationship with Moscow.

WikiLeaks has repeatedly been hit by unauthorized disclosures, but the tens of thousands of files obtained by the AP may be the biggest leak yet.

The AP has confirmed the authenticity of many of the documents by running them by five former WikiLeaks associates or by verifying non-public details such as bank accounts, telephone numbers or airline tickets.

One of the former associates, an ex-employee, identified two of the names that frequently appeared in the documents’ metadata, “Jessica Longley” and “Jim Evans Mowing,” as pseudonyms assigned to two WikiLeaks laptops.

All five former associates spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, in some cases because they didn’t want their past association with WikiLeaks to become public, and in others because they feared legal retaliation or harassment from the group’s supporters…

Metadata suggests that it was on Nov. 29, the day after the release of the first batch of U.S. State Department files, that the letter to the Russian Consulate was drafted on the Jessica Longley computer…

Breaking: Special Counsel Mueller Notifies the Court that LTG (ret) Flynn is Ready for Sentencing

What we’ll be looking for is exactly what LTG (ret) Flynn allocutes to in his sentencing hearing. You’ll notice that even though LTG (ret) Flynn is not running for office, nor are any of the people he worked for and with in the midterms, that the Special Counsel’s Office has requested a sentencing date at the end of November. After the midterm elections.

Open thread!

Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Guess It Wasn’t An Open-Carry Event…

… because there are no reports of “incidents” at last night’s big hoedown. “Gateway Pundit” Jim Hoft has a hard-earned reputation as The Dumbest Man on the Internet, a reputation he zealously upholds, and the level of free-floating paranoia among his little playmates must be somewhere in the stratosphere by this point…

While he awaits sentencing for lying to the FBI, former national security advisor Michael Flynn will take his awards where he can get them—even if that means appearing alongside Pizzagate pushers and racist YouTubers…

Flynn is scheduled to appear Friday night, following a series of speeches on why “President Trump Is #Winning.” Flynn, whose contacts with Russian and Turkish officials have brought scrutiny on the Trump administration, is arguably not the best spokesperson for #Winning…

The outlet’s conference is shaping up to be just as conservative and conspiratorial. The three-day lineup includes Pizzagate pushers Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec, conservative sting videomaker James O’Keefe, Turning Point USA talking heads Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk, and racist YouTuber Stefan Molyneux, who has been accused of luring followers into a “cult” that encouraged them to cut ties with their families—claims he denied when they first surfaced in 2008…

The Gateway Pundit conference will feature events with titles like “The Fraud of Transgenderism,” “Authentic Abstinence: It Works Every Time!!” and “Inconvenient Facts: How rising temperatures and increasing CO2 are benefiting the Earth and humanity.” Flynn’s award will be followed by a talk titled “They’re Back! The Ten Commandments as the Foundation of Law” and a showing of a Cernovich movie.

The event’s two other awards are the “Full-time Homemaker of the Year Award,” and the “Phyllis Schlafly Award for Excellence in Leadership,” which will go to Rep. Steve King, the anti-immigrant Iowa Republican who retweeted a white nationalist yesterday.

Perfect. You could add all these goobers’ IQ scores together and still not reach three digits.

North Korea’s 70th Anniversary Parade Was Boring

Sunday is running away faster than I thought it would, so I’m going to contract out the reporting to Josh Smith of Reuters, who was there. The photo is of spectators at the parade, from that article. There are more in the article.

Donald Trump recently received a letter from Kim Jong Un, but we don’t know what was in it yet. There were no big missiles in the parade, and the Orange Emperor thought that indicated that North Korea is going to denuclearize.

So far, to demonstrate good will, North Korea has dynamited the entrances to the tunnels at its nuclear test site, which can easily be reopened; partially disassembled a missile stand; and refrained from showing his biggest missiles in the parade, while presumably continuing to manufacture them and their nuclear payloads.

That word, denuclearize, shows up again. Trump, as far as we can tell, thinks it means North Korea’s giving up its nuclear weapons program. Kim has made clear that he sees it as a long-term goal, when the rest of the world denuclearizes.

And, in case you were sleeping too well, here’s another anecdote from Bob Woodward’s book. Trump wanted to tweet that he was evacuating dependents of military personnel in South Korea. He was talked out of it. That evacuation would be one of the sure indicators of an attack on North Korea, and Kim would have taken it that way.