Days after an unusually violent weekend in Chicago left 17 dead – including two children – and 70 wounded, the Justice Department is launching Operation Legend, named for a toddler shot to death while he slept in his home in Kansas City.
“President Trump has made clear: the federal government stands ready and willing to assist any of our state and local law enforcement partners across the nation responding to violent crime,” Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday.
Barr said Operation Legend will combine the efforts of federal law enforcement agencies with state and local officials to fight what he said is the “sudden surge of violent crime.”
The initial efforts will be carried out in Kansas City, where 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro was shot in the face as he slept in his bed in his Kansas City home on June 29.
Witnesses say the bullet that killed LeGend came from gunfire outside his apartment house. Police say the building was targeted. Aside from surveillance video of a car that may have been involved, they have no further clues.
LeGend’s funeral is set for Friday. Football star Frank Clark of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs is paying for the funeral. The Chiefs are playing their first home game against the Houston Texans on September 10 in LeGend’s name.
LeGend loved football and basketball. He was born with a heart defect and survived open heart surgery when he was 4 months old, only to lose his life to senseless violence.
“LeGend’s death is a horrifying reminder that violent crime left unchecked is a threat to us all and cannot be allowed to continue,” Barr said.
WASHINGTON – The number of people infected with the coronavirus is rising sharply in the United States. But the number of people dying is flat.
It sounds like good news. But experts warn against reading too much into it.
The number of new cases has seen a steady rise since mid-June. The seven-day average now tops 50,000. But the death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has been on a shallow decline through that period. It now averages around 500 per day.
But it takes several weeks for COVID-19 to kill, doctors note. Hospitalization numbers started to rise less than three weeks ago. They are up nearly a third since then, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Deaths will likely follow, said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.
“I do think that just by simple biology and mathematics, we will see death counts increase as hospitalizations and ICU bed use increase,” he said.
Young and infected
One reason the death count may be lower is that many of the people who are infected are young and less likely to develop severe disease. In some places, they now make up the majority of new cases.
“The death rate is lower, I admit that, because people in general who are young are healthier,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said on a Facebook Live news conference Tuesday. “But that doesn’t mean that you could not get seriously ill.”
Young people do end up in intensive care units and die of COVID-19, but at lower rates.
Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can download this video to view it offline.
Download File 360p | 11 MB 480p | 16 MB 540p | 21 MB 720p | 43 MB 1080p | 86 MB Original | 102 MB Embed Copy Download Audio
“And there’s a whole host of issues that we’re also just learning about,” Columbia University epidemiologist Barun Mathema said, including long-term lung damage.
“There’s a lot in between being asymptomatic and dying,” he said.
Since people are infectious before they show symptoms, young people can spread the coronavirus that causes the disease without knowing it.
“Every 20-year-old has an uncle, an aunt, a grandma, a grandpa,” Mathema noted. It may take a while, but “at some point, this may translate into transmission chains into these already vulnerable populations,” including the elderly and people with other health problems.
Young people have drawn criticism for ignoring precautions and congregating without masks in bars, clubs, parties and other crowded spaces. They are seeing higher infection rates because of it.
They may make up a bigger proportion of new infections because, “it is possible that older people and those who are more vulnerable are more careful in terms of their behaviors,” said University of Miami professor of medicine Maria Luisa Alcaide, a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
One of the most vulnerable groups — nursing home residents — was hit hard early in the pandemic. Nursing homes account for more than 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths, according to an analysis from USA Today and others.
But infection control at these facilities has tightened substantially since then.
“We’ve gotten much better at fortifying our nursing homes against this virus,” Adalja of Johns Hopkins said. That could mean fewer deaths as cases spike, he added.
Fewer people may be dying of COVID-19 because treatment for hospitalized patients has improved somewhat since March.
“We know a lot about the complications that coronavirus can cause, such as strokes or blood clots in the lung. And we know how to somewhat prevent those complications,” Adalja said.
Studies have shown two drugs, remdesivir and dexamethasone, can offer some help. But only some.
“Once you’re very, very ill, those are effective drugs. They’re not cures,” said Harvard Medical School professor Rajesh Gandhi, co-author of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s COVID-19 treatment guidelines. “These drugs have an impact. It’s an important impact, better than we were in March. But we have a long way to go to get treatment where we want it to be.”
“We are still seeing some very sick people,” IDSA’s Alcaide said. “It’s going to take a little bit longer to see if this increase in cases is also going to lead to an increase in deaths.”
“We still have to think that we are dealing with a very, very aggressive virus with a high mortality,” she added.
The U.S. Supreme Court is issuing the final opinions of its current term today, with attention focused on three high-profile cases involving requests for President Donald Trump’s tax records and other financial documents by congressional committees and a New York prosecutor.
Trump, who went against the practice of modern presidential candidates by refusing to make his tax documents public while campaigning in 2016, has sought to block the release of those records and others related to his financial dealings.
In two combined cases, several House of Representatives committees issued subpoenas seeking the records from two banks, Capital One and Deutsche Bank, as well as the accounting firm Mazars USA.
The key issue justices are weighing in those cases is the separation of powers among the branches of the federal government and congressional power to investigate a president.
Trump lawyer Patrick Strawbridge said during oral arguments in May that the subpoenas served no substantial legislative purpose and that lawmakers should not be allowed to probe a president’s affairs with unlimited authority.
In ruling against Trump in December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second District in New York said the committees had sufficiently identified their purposes.
“The Committees’ interests in pursuing their constitutional legislative function is a far more significant public interest than whatever public interest inheres in avoiding the risk of a Chief Executive’s distraction arising from disclosure of documents reflecting his private financial transactions,” Judge Jon O. Newman said in writing for the appeals court majority.
A lower court also ruled against Trump in the third case involving Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s request for financial records from Mazars as part of a grand jury investigation of alleged hush money payments to two women during the 2016 election.
Jay Sekulow, another Trump lawyer, argued before the Supreme Court in May that the president enjoys “temporary constitutional immunity” from prosecution while in office and that the New York district attorney has no authority to subpoena Trump.
Carey Dunne, the general counsel for the Manhattan district attorney, countered that presidents, while immune from criminal prosecution, are not excused from responding to a subpoena. In addition, Dunne said, the information his office is seeking predates Trump’s presidential term and is not protected by executive privilege.
There “is a risk that American presidents and third parties unwittingly could end up above the law,” Dunne said.
The Supreme Court has dealt with the question of whether a sitting president is required to comply with a legal request for documents in the past.
The court ruled unanimously against President Richard Nixon in 1973 in a case involving turning over White House audio tapes to a special prosecutor. Justices also issued a unanimous ruling against President Bill Clinton in 1997 allowing a sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton to go forward.
The nine justices gave little indication during oral arguments which way they will decide the current cases, reflecting the need to balance competing interests among the branches of government.
In addition to ruling in favor of one side or the other, the justices could also decide to send either case back to the lower court for reconsideration.
While the lower court rulings against Trump came amid his impeachment by the House of Representatives on charges of obstruction of justice and abuse of power of which the Senate later acquitted him, the Supreme Court ruling comes with the nation months away from deciding whether to elect Trump to a second four-year term, or to put his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the White House.
Facebook Inc. on Wednesday removed 50 personal and professional pages connected to U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone, who is due to report to prison next week.
The social media platform said Stone and his associates, including a prominent supporter of the right-wing Proud Boys group in Stone’s home state of Florida, had used fake accounts and followers to promote Stone’s books and posts.
Facebook moved against Stone on the same day it took down accounts tied to employees of the family of Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro and two other networks connected to domestic political operations in Ecuador and Ukraine.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said the removals were meant to show that artificially inflating engagement for political impact would be stopped, no matter how well-connected the practitioners.
“It doesn’t matter what they’re saying, and it doesn’t matter who they are,” Gleicher told Reuters before the announcement on the company’s blog. “We expect we’re going to see more political actors cross this line and use coordinated inauthentic behavior to try to influence public debate.”
54 accounts removed
Facebook officials said they took down Stone’s personal Facebook and Instagram pages and his Stone Cold Truth Facebook page, which had 141,000 followers. A total of 54 Facebook accounts and 50 pages were removed for misbehavior, including the creation of fake accounts. The accounts spent more than $300,000 on advertisements over the past few years, Facebook said.
Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg was briefed on the actions beforehand, officials said.
The removals risk further angering Trump and other conservatives who accuse Facebook of suppressing right-wing voices. Facebook last month took down a Trump re-election ad that included a Nazi symbol, and it pledged to steer users to facts on voting when Trump, or anyone else, touches on the topic.
Facebook is under pressure from civil rights advocates and allied groups as well, and hundreds of advertisers have joined a boycott demanding the company crack down on hateful and divisive messages.
FILE – Roger Stone arrives for his sentencing at federal court in Washington, Feb. 20, 2020.
Stone was convicted last year of witness tampering and lying to Congress as it investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Stone did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. He told the far-right website Gateway Pundit: “We have been exposing the railroad job that was so deep and so obvious during my trial, which is why they must silence me. As they will soon learn, I cannot and will not be silenced.”
In search warrant documents released this April, the FBI said a Stone assistant told interviewers in 2018 “that he purchased a couple hundred fake Facebook accounts as part of this work.”
Facebook said its probe was influenced by the April search documents. But the company said that its unit guarding against coordinated inauthentic behavior had already been looking into Stone’s pages after a referral from a separate Facebook team monitoring dangerous organizations, which was tracking the Proud Boys.
Proud Boys banned
Facebook marked the Proud Boys as dangerous and banned their content in 2018. Members have been charged with violence in multiple instances and recently clashed with anti-racism protesters.
One of the accounts connected to the Proud Boys was operated by Jacob Engels, Facebook said. Stone testified last year that Engels could post on Instagram on his behalf and had access to his phone.
Engels, who writes for far-right sites, told Reuters he is not a member of the Proud Boys but has “embedded” with them to research the group.
Graphika analyst Ben Nimmo, a disinformation specialist, said the Stone network had been most active in 2016 and 2017, among other things promoting stories about the Democratic emails published by WikiLeaks as part of the Russian interference effort.
Many of the accounts were later deleted, and in recent weeks they have mostly reflected Stone’s quest to receive a pardon from Trump for his crimes, according to Nimmo.
“The inauthentic accounts were amplifying various Stone assets, like his page, or advertising one of his books,” Nimmo said.
Stone has been stepping up his efforts to get a pardon from Trump before he reports to prison, where his family fears the spread of COVID-19. Trump has said that Stone was treated unfairly, and his attorney general intervened to seek a lesser sentence, prompting four career prosecutors to resign from the case.
WHITE HOUSE – President Donald Trump welcomed Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador Wednesday to the White House, where they discussed trade, the economy and immigration, days after a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal among the two countries and Canada went into effect.
They also remarked on the improved relations between the two countries.
FILE – Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for a news conference in Ottawa, Canada on July 6, 2020.
“The relationship between the U.S. and Mexico has never been closer than it is right now,” Trump said in the Rose Garden before the two leaders signed a joint declaration which “recognizes the advancements our two countries have achieved toward a renewed and strengthened partnership.”
The U.S. leader, who in the past has made disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants and threatened trade tariffs, called the relations between U.S. and Mexico “outstanding,” adding that he and Lopez Obrador “put the interests of our countries first.”
López Obrador responded, saying: “As president of Mexico, instead of remembering the insults and things like that against my country, we have received from you, President Trump, understanding and respect.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to attend the meeting to commemorate USMCA, citing a busy schedule and the inappropriateness of international travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump said the U.S. is home to 36 million Mexican Americans and that they make up a “big percentage” of small-business owners.
“They’re like you — they’re tough negotiators and great businesspeople, Mr. President,” Trump told the Mexican leader.
The leftist Mexican president, often referred to by his initials, AMLO, has brushed off domestic criticism for meeting Trump, who is widely disliked in Mexico because of past disparaging remarks about Mexicans and his stance on immigration.
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a meeting at the White House, in Washington, July 8, 2020.
López Obrador’s government sees this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of USMCA and has tried to distance the visit from topics related to immigration.
“It is very important for us to be launching this new agreement, López Obrador said through a translator. “But I also wanted to be here to thank the people of the United States, its government. And thank you, President Trump, for being increasingly respectful with our Mexican fellow men,” he added.
In his remarks, López Obrador quoted George Washington, the first U.S. president, who said, “Nations should not take advantage of the unfortunate condition of other people.” López Obrador said Trump has “followed” Washington’s “wise advice.”
Some analysts have noted that Trump has used America’s tremendous economic leverage, including threats of tariffs and even a total border closing, to pressure the Mexican leader on issues of trade and immigration.
Mexico functions as a “hinge” between the United States and the asylum-seeker origin countries of Central America, said Maria Fernanda Perez Arguello, associate director at the Atlantic Council. “Immigration from Central America — and the push factors in the countries — is the big elephant in the room between AMLO and Trump,” she said.
This is López Obrador’s first meeting with Trump and the second visit to the White House by a foreign leader since the coronavirus shutdown in March. Like Trump, López Obrador has downplayed the risks of the coronavirus and said he has never been tested for the coronavirus because he has no symptoms and will take a test only if the White House requires it.
Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said that all members of the Mexican delegation, including the president, were tested for the coronavirus and that the tests were administered by the White House.
Speaking to reporters in Mexico City before his departure Tuesday, López Obrador repeatedly said in response to questions about raising issues such as immigration policy that his focus in the talks would be on the trade deal.
“It is always important that there be cooperation for development. But now in a circumstance of global economic crisis, this treaty is going to help us a lot. It is very timely,” López Obrador said.
He noted the economic challenges facing Mexico, like those in many other countries during the coronavirus pandemic and stressed the need for Mexico to have good relations with its neighbor.
The Mexican leader noted the agenda for bilateral talks includes other topics, and on those, his delegation — which includes Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon and Economic Secretary Graciela Márquez Colín — would not take a confrontational approach, but rather try to have a dialogue of understanding with their U.S. counterparts.
The USMCA updated the 1990s North American Trade Agreement and was a major policy push for Trump, who cast the former trade deal as harmful to U.S. businesses and workers.
The pact includes new laws related to intellectual property protection, the internet, currencies, investment and state-owned enterprises. The new legislation includes more stringent rules on auto manufacturing, e-commerce and labor provisions, but leaves largely unchanged the trade flows among the North American countries valued at $1.2 trillion a year.
In addition to private talks between Trump and López Obrador and wider meetings with their advisers, the two leaders attended a dinner Wednesday night with business leaders from both countries.
Before going to the White House, López Obrador visited the Lincoln Memorial and a statue of former Mexican President Benito Juárez in Washington.
WASHINGTON – In a major victory for U.S. President Donald Trump, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the administration may exempt employers with a religious or moral objection from a federal mandate requiring them to provide free birth control coverage to their employees.
The ruling weakens a key requirement under the Affordable Care Act, an Obama era law that has faced repeated legal and political challenges since its enactment 10 years ago. According to Trump administration estimates, between 70,000 and 126,000 women could lose free employer-provided contraceptive coverage as a result of the ruling. Critics say the real number could be higher.
The vote was 7-2, with liberal justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer joining the majority. The two other liberal justices on the court — Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor — dissented.
Thomas writes for majority
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, writing the majority opinion, said that the Health Resources Services Administration, the federal agency that manages affordable health care plan, has “broad discretion to define preventive care and screenings and to create the religious and moral exemptions.”
This is the third time in six years that the Supreme Court has weighed in on a challenge to the religious exemption. But the controversy is far from over.
The high court sent the case back to the lower courts where the plaintiffs in the case — the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey — could raise fresh arguments.
“We could see this case come back up again in a year or two based on whatever the lower courts decide on the arbitrary and capricious issue,” said Greer Donley, an assistant professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh who researches reproductive rights issues.
FILE – In this March 25, 2015, photo, protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court, as the court heard arguments in the challenges to a US health care law requiring businesses to provide employees with insurance that includes contraceptives.
ACA started in 2010
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), enacted in 2010 under then-President Barack Obama, requires employer-provided health insurance plans to provide free “preventive care and screenings.”
Under the law, HRSA, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, subsequently issued rules mandating that the health plans provide women workers with free contraceptive care.
The guidelines however exempted houses of worships such as churches from the mandate while giving religious non-profits the ability to opt out.
Conservatives oppose the mandate saying it forces employers to pay for abortion-inducing drugs and procedures.
As a presidential candidate in 2016, Trump criticized the contraceptive requirement and vowed to repeal the law altogether.
In 2017, after Congress failed to invalidate Obamacare, the Trump administration directed HRSA to expand the exemptions, allowing not just private religious outfits but also organizations with a “moral objection” to be exempted from providing birth control coverage.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey then sued to block the new rules, arguing that that the administration lacked authority under both the Affordable Care Act and the Administrative Procedure Act to expand the exemptions. A federal district court and appeals court agreed with the states and blocked the rules.
The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic religious institute for women, challenged the ruling, joined by the Trump administration.
All nine Supreme Court justices agreed that HRSA has the authority to mandate contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Where they disagreed was whether the law allows the agency to create exemptions.
Justice Thomas wrote that it does.
“The only question we face today is what the plain language of the statute authorizes,” Thomas wrote. “And the plain language of the statute clearly allows the departments to create the preventive care standards as well as the religious and moral exemptions,” Justice Thomas also said.
Justice Ginsburg disagreed. In her dissent, she wrote that the law allows for no such exemption. She then went on to opine that the court’s decision “leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding.”
A long history
The ACA has been the subject of lawsuits for as long as it has been in effect. Some of those cases have come before the Supreme Court.
In 2012, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to rule that the law is constitutional, with Chief Justice John Roberts casting the crucial fifth vote that many credit with saving the program.
In 2014, however, the high court struck down the contraceptive mandate for closely held businesses, saying it violated a 1993 law known as Religious Freedom and Restoration Act.
The latest ruling, though backed by five conservatives and two liberals, proved as divisive as Obamacare itself.
Matthew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, an evangelical Christian group, called the decision “a victory for religious employers.”
“Thanks to the Trump administration for recognizing the need to protect religious employers from mandates that conflict with religious and moral beliefs about the sanctity of human life,” Staver said in a statement.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addresses her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the decision will “enable the Trump Administration’s brutal assault on women’s health, financial security and independence.”
“It is unconscionable that, in the middle of the worst global pandemic in modern history, the Administration is focusing on denying basic health care to women that is essential for their health and financial security, instead of protecting lives and livelihoods,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Donley, the University of Pittsburg law professor, said the ruling could disproportionately affect low-income women and those of color.
“These are the kind of policy reasons that the mandate was promulgated to begin with,” Donley said. “When you see cases like this, you already start to be worried about how this could chip away at the rights that were fought for.”
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the national security aide who played a central role in President Donald Trump’s impeachment case, announced his retirement from the Army on Wednesday in a scathing statement that accused the president of running a “campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation.”
The statement from attorney David Pressman said Vindman was leaving the Army after more than 21 years after it had been made clear “that his future within the institution he has dutifully served will forever be limited.”
“Through a campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation, the President of the United States attempted to force LTC Vindman to choose: Between adhering to the law or pleasing a President. Between honoring his oath or protecting his career. Between protecting his promotion or the promotion of his fellow soldiers,” read the statement, first obtained by CNN.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump in February ousted Vindman from his White House job just two days after his acquittal by the Senate. Vindman’s lawyer said his client had been told to leave in retaliation for “telling the truth.”
Vindman had testified that he didn’t think it was “proper” for Trump to “demand that a foreign government investigate” former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s dealings with the energy company Burisma in Ukraine.
In a major victory for U.S. President Donald Trump, the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the administration’s plan to exempt employers with a religious or moral objection from a mandate requiring them to provide free birth control coverage to their employees.
The ruling weakens a key contraceptive coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act which has otherwise largely survived repeated legal and political challenges since its enactment 10 years ago. The health insurance plan created by the law is commonly known as Obamacare. According to government estimates, between 70,000 and 126,000 women could lose free employer-provided contraceptive coverage as a result of the ruling.
Supreme Court Set to Hear ‘Obamacare’ Case Argued by Phone The justices are hearing a dispute about Trump administration rules that would allow more employers who cite a religious or moral objection to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women
The vote was 7-2, with liberal justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer joining the majority. The two other liberal justices on the court – Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor – dissented.
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, writing the majority opinion, said that the administration had “the authority under the (Affordable Care Act) to promulgate the religious and moral exemptions.” In addition, he wrote, the expanded exemptions first announced three years ago did not violate regulatory procedures.
The Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010 under former President Barack Obama, requires employer-provided health insurance plans to provide female workers with free access to birth control. Abortion critics oppose the mandate, saying it provides for abortion-inducing drugs and devices.
FILE – In this March 25, 2015, photo, protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court, as the court heard arguments in the challenges to a US health care law requiring businesses to provide employees with insurance that includes contraceptives.
In 2013, the Obama administration exempted churches and other houses of worship from the mandate and it gave religious non-profits the ability to opt out of the program.
In 2017, the Trump administration expanded the exemptions, issuing interim rules that allowed private entities with “religious and moral objections” to the mandate to opt out of the program. The administration finalized the rules in 2018.
The states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey then sued to block the rules. They argued that the rules violated both the Affordable Care Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, the law that governs federal administrative agencies.
A federal district court and appeals court sided with the states. The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic religious institute for women, and the Trump administration then appealed to the Supreme Court.
This is the second time the Supreme Court has weighed in on the contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act. In 2014, the high court held that requiring family-owned companies to provide free contraceptive coverage violated a religious freedom law.
SEOUL – U.S. President Donald Trump says he is open to another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, even as Pyongyang signals it is uninterested in resuming stalled nuclear talks.
Trump made the comments Tuesday in an interview with Gray Television’s Greta Van Susteren.
“I understand they want to meet and we would certainly do that,” Trump said, later adding: “I would do it if I thought it was going to be helpful.”
When Van Susteren, also a VOA contributor, asked if Trump thought such a meeting would be helpful, Trump replied: “Probably. I have a very good relationship with him, [so it] probably would be.”
North Korea has twice in the past week said it is not interested in more talks with the U.S., insisting another summit would only benefit Trump’s domestic political situation.
“Explicitly speaking once again, we have no intention to sit face to face with the U.S.,” said Kwon Jong Gun, a North Korean foreign ministry official, in an article in the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) Tuesday.
On Saturday, senior North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui said the U.S. “is mistaken if it thinks things like negotiations would still work on us.”
“We do not feel any need to sit face to face with the U.S., as it does not consider the DPRK-U.S. dialogue as nothing more than a tool for grappling its political crisis,” Choe said.
Earlier this month, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he would like to see Trump and Kim hold another meeting before the U.S. presidential election in November.
The issue is likely to come up Wednesday when U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun meets in Seoul with South Korean leaders on how to advance the stalled nuclear talks.
Biegun, the top U.S. negotiator on North Korea, last month said an in-person summit before the election is unlikely, in part because of coronavirus concerns.
Some analysts have questioned whether Trump has other priorities; with just four months to go until the election, Trump is badly trailing Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in the polls. North Korea is not seen as a major issue in the U.S. election.
However, if Trump could revive the North Korea talks, it could help highlight what White House officials had once heralded as a signature Trump foreign policy achievement.
Trump and Kim met for the first time in June 2018 in Singapore, where they signed a short statement vowing to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Though the statement was less substantive than some past U.S.-North Korea agreements, many analysts and officials hoped that Trump and Kim’s unique “top-down” approach to the talks would pave the way for later progress in working-level negotiations.
Hopes were high in February 2019, when Trump and Kim met for a second time in Hanoi, Vietnam. But that summit ended abruptly after the two men failed to agree on how to pair sanctions relief with steps to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program.
In June 2019, Trump and Kim met briefly at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. In October, the two sides also engaged in working-level talks that quickly broke down. North Korea has since boycotted the discussions.
North Korea is angry at the U.S. refusal to relax sanctions and provide security guarantees as part of a step-by-step denuclearization process. The Trump administration wants Pyongyang to first agree to give up its entire nuclear weapons program.
Trump has repeatedly insisted his relationship with Kim remains strong and has portrayed his outreach to Kim as a success, even as North Korea resumed frequent short-range missile tests and other provocations.
“Just so you understand, [it’s been] almost four years we’re not in a war. Almost anybody else would have been in a war. I get along, we talk, and let’s see what happens. But we’ve done a great job and haven’t been given the credit we deserve,” Trump told Van Susteren.
Since Trump and Kim began talking, North Korea has refrained from nuclear and long-range missile tests but continues developing nuclear weapons. According to some estimates, North Korea now has enough material for about 40 nuclear bombs.
Asked about North Korea’s continued nuclear weapons activity, Trump replied:
“Well, we’ll have to see. There’s no delivery, et cetera, et cetera, as you know. Not yet. And at some point there might be. And we’ll have to have very serious discussions and thought about that, because there could be some time when something’s going to happen.”
The complete interview will air Sunday on Gray TV’s Full Court Press program, but VOA obtained a transcript of Trump’s North Korea comments ahead of time.
The United States is too dependent on foreign sources for critical supplies needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign said, promising to bring back production “to U.S. soil.”
“Under President Trump, our supply chains have actually gotten less secure,” a senior Biden campaign official told reporters Tuesday.
The official said Biden believes the U.S. relies too much on foreign manufacturers for energy technology, electronics, telecommunications and computer equipment, along with medical equipment.
The campaign said if Biden is elected president in November, his plan would begin an immediate 100-day review of the U.S. supply chain, use the Defense Production Act to boost manufacturing of critical products, and create stockpiles of supplies “so that the United States never again faces the kind of vulnerability it did in this crisis,” the official said.
The Biden campaign said it is already working on plans to mass-produce and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, if one is ready, if he becomes president in January.
President Donald Trump has said policies by former President Barack Obama, for whom Biden was vice president, made U.S. supply chains weaker.
But the Biden campaign said Trump policies were to blame for making the U.S. “dangerously dependent on foreign suppliers” such as China and Russia.