Whatever strategic planning the Trump administration has for a North Korea with nuclear weapons capabilities, there was no preparing for the president’s comments on Tuesday. The White House, including the national-security team, was unaware President Trump was preparing to speak publicly about North Korea when he did so Tuesday at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” said Trump, his arms crossed. “They will be met with the fire and the fury like the world has never seen.” Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been “very threatening beyond a normal state.”“And as I said, they will be met with the fire and fury and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,” Trump said.
The president was responding to a report in the Washington Post that, according to a confidential U.S. intelligence assessment presented late last month, the North Korean regime has “successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles.”
Trump’s aides and staff will now be forced to fit their messaging and agenda to the president’s words. Dan Scavino, who runs the White House’s social-media operations, has already leaned into them by tweeting out a video of Trump’s comments at Bedminster.
The episode represents a change in posture: for most of Trump’s presidency, administration officials have been reluctant to respond too forcefully in public to North Korean aggression and threats. One administration source put it to me this way after a previous missile test by North Korea: there’s no upside to a war of words with the regime of Kim Jong-un, whose provocations are about seeking attention. The president, for some reason, seems to have decided otherwise.Everybody who wanted to see this administration avoid going over the precipice was heartened by the appointment of John Kelly as Chief of Staff. And that move is yielding results. But with regard to the Big Guy's spontaneity-based approach to expressing himself, there appears to be no change forthcoming:
So where this Trump-Kim volley of bellicose outbursts takes us is out of anyone else's hands, it seems.But while the president has offered Kelly a level of control Priebus never managed to obtain, Trump has resisted giving his new chief of staff veto power over the spontaneous and provocative tweets that often serve as a distraction for his administration.A series of news reports suggesting Kelly had sought oversight of Trump's Twitter account, including a report that claimed Kelly wanted to know in advance what the president planned to post, made their way to Trump's desk last week, a person familiar with the situation told the Washington Examiner.Trump "was pissed when he read Kelly wanted to control his Twitter feed," the person said.