U.S. team arrives in North Korea to prep for potential summit

 In Politics

BREAKING … WASHINGTON POST’S ANNA FIFIELD in SEOUL: “A team of U.S. officials crossed into North Korea on Sunday for talks to prepare for a summit between President Trump and Kim Un, as both sides press ahead with arrangements despite the question marks hanging over the meeting.

“Sung Kim, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and former nuclear negotiator with the North, has been called in from his posting as envoy to the Philippines to lead the preparations, according to a person familiar with the arrangements.

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“He crossed the line that separates the two Koreas to meet with Choe Son Hui, the North Korean vice foreign minister, who said last week that Pyongyang was ‘reconsidering’ the talks. Kim and Choe know each other well — both were part of the delegations that negotiated the 2005 denuclearization agreement through the six-party framework.” https://wapo.st/2L0hN6e

THE PRESIDENT’S WEEK AHEAD … Monday: Trump will go to Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony and a Memorial Day event. Tuesday: The president will eat lunch with VP Mike Pence and HUD Secretary Ben Carson. He also plans to meet with HHS Secretary Alex Azar and NIH Director Francis Collins. He then will travel to Nashville….

… Wednesday: Trump will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and he’ll participate in a White House Sports and Fitness Day event. Thursday: Trump will go to Houston and Dallas. Friday: Trump will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

THE PRESIDENT left the White House this morning with Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.).

PRESIDENT TRUMP in the Oval Office last night, standing with Josh Holt, who the U.S. got out of a Venezuelan prison: “[I] want to thank Bob Corker. Great job you did over there. Great job. And I want to thank Mike Lee. And, Mia, you’ve been — every time I’d see Mia, she’d talk about you, Josh. (Laughter.) She’d say, ‘What about Josh?’ I said, ‘What about something else? Can we talk about something else?’ (Laughter.) She was always doing it. And Orrin Hatch is a legend, as you know. He’s a legend in the Senate and in this country. And, Orrin, you were great.

“So, Bob, Mike, Mia, Orrin — I want to thank you very much. So we’ve had 17 prisoners released during the Trump administration. Most people don’t know that. You remember Aya. We called the President of Egypt, and he released her. She was there for a long time — three years. And the previous administration was unable to get her out. A fantastic young woman. And she was released.

“As you know, in North Korea, we just had a very great success. We have three wonderful people — Americans — that were released just recently. And they’re now home, safe with their families.

“And you were a tough one, I have to tell you. That was a tough situation. But we’ve had 17 released, and we’re very proud of that record. Very proud. And we have others coming. We’re in the midst of some very big negotiations to get others out. In most cases, they’re Americans, but we can try and help other countries too, where there’s injustice. So we’ve been working very hard on it.”

BOB CORKER: “It was quite an experience, that we could almost write a book about just the last 48 hours.”

— WELL SENATOR, you’re retiring! Go ahead!

— THE BACKSTORY, FROM THE AP: “Backchannel with ‘Dracula’ helped free Utah man in Venezuela,” by Joshua Goodman and Matt Lee: “Although [Bob] Corker sealed the deal in a few tense hours in Venezuela’s collapsing, crime-filled capital, the push to secure Holt’s release began months earlier by Corker’s top Latin American policy aide, Caleb McCarry, who both Corker and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, credited with leading the painstaking, behind-the-scenes negotiations. McCarry leveraged a 15-year-old relationship with Maduro from their time together in the Boston Group, an informal gathering from across the political spectrum — Democrats, Republicans, socialists and capitalists — from both countries that worked discreetly to repair relations between the two countries following a coup in 2002 against then-President Hugo Chavez. …

“McCarry secretly traveled to Venezuela in February to discuss Holt’s imprisonment with Maduro and first lady Cilia Flores. … Holding McCarry’s hand throughout the delicate talks was ‘Dracula’ — Rafael Lacava, the governor of central Carabobo state and a trusted ally of Maduro who also was close to the Boston Group members.” http://bit.ly/2Jc6SsS

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE FRONT PAGE: “Utahn ‘so grateful’ to be free” http://bit.ly/2L1i7lb

Good Sunday morning. The Indy 500 starts at 12:21 p.m. on ABC.

SUNDAY BEST … DANA BASH spoke with RUDY GIULIANI on CNN’S “STATE OF THE UNION”: BASH: “So you think that the Mueller probe is legitimate?” GIULIANI: “Not anymore. I don’t. I did when I came in, but now I see spygate, I see Judge Ellis in Manafort.”

KYLE CHENEY (@kyledcheney): “Rudy says details about an FBI informant — which he hasn’t seen — make the Mueller probe illegitimate.”

— CLIP AND SAVE … RUDY on “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: “The president’s not going to fire anyone because that would be playing into the hands of victim you know Watergate, they are the Watergate they are the ones who committed the crimes. What we have to do is go to court and seek protection from the court.”

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PRESIDENT TRUMP, at 8:41 a.m.: “Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt? They journeyed down to Washington, D.C., with stars in their eyes and wanting to help our nation…They went back home in tatters!”

BLOOMBERG’S STEVE DENNIS (@StevenTDennis): “Manafort age: 69 … Flynn: 59 … Gates: 46 … Papadopoulos appears happy. … Who is he talking about?”

— MAYBE Hope Hicks.

EMBARASSING … “Trump Falsely Says Times Made Up Source in Report on Korea Summit Meeting,” by NYT’s Mike Shear: “President Trump falsely accused The New York Times on Saturday of making up a source in an article about North Korea, even though the source was in fact a senior White House official speaking to a large group of reporters in the White House briefing room. The president was referring to an article about the on-again, off-again summit meeting between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, which Mr. Trump had canceled Thursday. The article, headlined, ‘Trump Says North Korea Summit May Be Rescheduled,’ said that the United States was ‘back in touch with North Korea’ and that the meeting might yet happen.

“Mr. Trump posted on Twitter to denounce part of the article, which reported in the 10th paragraph that ‘a senior White House official told reporters that even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.’ In a tweet, the president took issue with that sentence, saying, ‘WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.’

“It is not clear whether the president was simply unaware of the actions of his own senior staff or if he knowingly ignored the truth. The source of that sentence was a White House official who held a briefing on Thursday afternoon in the White House briefing room that was attended by about 50 reporters, with about 200 or so more on a conference call.” https://nyti.ms/2KVvnaT

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY …

— AJC’S GREG BLUESTEIN and TAMAR HALLERMAN: “Georgia Democrats test a more liberal comeback strategy”: “The sharp tack to the left was headlined by Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor, who maintained that trying to appeal to moderate GOP voters was a lost cause — and won a sweeping mandate from her party to refocus its attention on policies that will energize left-leaning Georgians.

“Elsewhere on the ballot, voters fed up with conventional party strategy also rewarded other progressive candidates who support fewer abortion restrictions, back gun control, press for gay rights, oppose illegal immigration crackdowns and push other policies once sidelined by top Democratic contenders.

“That leftward lean is both thrilling and unnerving to Georgia Republicans, who are themselves moving more aggressively toward their conservative base. They’re thrilled because leaders believe Georgia is still a conservative state where voters will punish Democrats who can be painted as ideologically extreme, giving Republicans an advantage in the November general election.” http://bit.ly/2JbRLQ7

— AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN’S JONATHAN TILOVE and ASHER PRICE: “Democrats are targeting these Texas districts in House takeover bid” https://atxne.ws/2IP0fNO

— FRESNO BEE FRONT PAGE: “WHEN ICE COMES KNOCKING ON THE DOOR” http://bit.ly/2GUUcBl … The story http://bit.ly/2xd3Boe

ZACH DORFMAN in POLITICO MAGAZINE: “The Mysterious Tale of a Powerful American Businessman, Three Sanctioned Iranians and an Imprisonment in Tehran”: https://politi.co/2Lwwlvk

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