Vox Sentences: Trump gets nothing

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The Hanoi summit comes to a contested early end; Israel’s prime minister faces potential indictment.


Trump-Kim summit ends abruptly

Vietnam News Agency/Handout/Getty Images
  • The summit between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Kim came to an early end Thursday; both leaders returned home empty-handed from Hanoi, and without success to show, they may not be as optimistic about future negotiations. [Vox / Jen Kirby]
  • Economic sanctions divided Trump and Kim. According to Trump, Kim refused to shut down a nuclear facility unless all US sanctions on his country were lifted. North Korea disputed that account in a rare press conference on Thursday, stating that it asked only for “partial sanctions” relief and had offered a doable denuclearization proposal. [WSJ / Jonathan Cheng, Vivian Salama, and Timothy W. Martin]
  • “Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump said at his own news conference Thursday. He added that he left because North Korea wasn’t offering a balanced deal: The US could not lift all its sanctions in return for the closure of only one nuclear facility. Leaving the table doesn’t mean negotiations are over, but North Korea is still potentially producing weapons-grade nuclear materials without consequence. [NYT / Edward Wong]
  • What went wrong? Trump took the unprecedented approach of sitting with Kim for one-on-one talks to make a deal from scratch, rather than following the custom of leaving it to experts to draft terms and then meeting with Kim only to finalize an agreement. The talks didn’t go well because there was no groundwork for a deal. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • Another surprise: Trump expressed that he believes Kim would not have permitted the imprisonment of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was arrested in North Korea and returned to the US comatose and died in 2017. Trump had made Warmbier’s return something of a personal quest, and Warmbier’s family was invited to the 2018 State of the Union Address. Trump’s statement denied US intelligence and demonstrated the president’s willingness to act agreeable with authoritarian regimes. [Washington Post / Josh Dawsey]
  • This is a loss for the Trump presidency too. Trump returns to Washington amid turmoil following Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony, special counsel Robert Mueller’s upcoming report, House investigations, and a House resolution passed to block his declaration of a national emergency. Some advisers may be relieved that Trump didn’t trade too much for denuclearization, but the inconclusive talks make his optimistic talk about North Korea look inflated. [Politico / Eliana Johnson]
  • One winner in all this: Vietnam. The communist country’s economy is booming after it opened itself up to partnership with the US. Hanoi is an example of what Pyongyang’s economy could look like if North Korea opened itself up to the US, too; however, reconciliation requires finally ending the Korean War. [Washington Post / Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland]

Netanyahu faces three corruption cases

  • Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced on Thursday that he plans to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for crimes involved in three corruption cases. To make it worse for Netanyahu, the PM is currently seeking a fourth consecutive term this April. [Vox / Alexia Underwood]
  • There are reportedly three cases of corruption against Netanyahu: case 1000, case 2000 and case 4000. The first involves Netanyahu allegedly receiving nearly $200,000 in luxury gifts from billionaires in exchange for official favors. The second alleges that he worked with a newspaper owner to gain more positive coverage; the third alleges that he pressed regulations through the Communications Ministry to establish regulations that favored Bezeq, a telecommunications company that promoted him in return. [NYT / David M. Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner]
  • If he were indicted, Netanyahu would attend a hearing but not be required to resign. Only if he were convicted and the ruling upheld in an appeal would the prime minister have to step down. Netanyahu responded to the announcement by claiming the charges were a media tool to topple his conservative government. [CNN / Oren Liebermann and Andrew Carey]
  • This is not the first time Netanyahu has been accused of corruption, but he remains high in polls despite reported illegal behavior. His biggest fear now may be that competing coalitions gain traction and he loses voters. [Vox / Alexia Underwood]
  • A request to delay the indictment from Netanyahu’s Likud party was rejected by Israel’s high court on Thursday. Likud wrote a petition that claimed the attorney general was acting under leftist pressure and threatening ballots from representing what people really want. [Politico Europe / Lili Bayer]
  • “He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s strong,” President Trump said of Netanyahu at a press conference on Thursday in Hanoi. America’s relationship with Israel is closer than it was during the Obama administration, especially as Trump aims to engineer a Palestinian peace plan this spring. [WSJ / Felicia Schwartz]

Miscellaneous

  • US GDP rose at a 2.6% annual rate from October through December 2018. A report by the Commerce Department says that consumer spending at the end of the year was strong, and US exports rose. [WSJ / Harriet Torry]
  • The House passed the first of two sweeping gun control bills on Wednesday to expand federal background check systems. The Republican-majority Senate is not likely to pass the bills, the second of which lengthens the amount of time authorities have to complete background checks. President Trump has promised to veto the legislation. [NPR / Brakkton Booker]
  • Fewer Americans are willing the participate in phone polls, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Pew announced it would move its political surveys online, giving responders the chance to give answers on their own time. [Politico / Steven Shepard]
  • Pakistan announced on Thursday it will release a captured Indian Air Force pilot as a “goodwill gesture” in an attempt to defuse tensions with its regional neighbor. [AP / Munir Ahmed and Kathy Gannon]
  • Maybe consider posting a photo of yourself exercising; life insurance companies may use your Instagram account as a “lifestyle indicator” when deciding on premiums, according to a letter from the New York State Department of Financial Services. [New Yorker / Nathan Heller]

Verbatim

“I would not call it the greatest crisis. I consider it a huge issue that has to be addressed globally.” [Andrew Wheeler on climate change in his confirmation hearing for Environmental Protection Agency head; the former coal industry lobbyist was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday]


Watch this: The guidebook that helped black Americans travel during segregation

Until the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, the Green Book was critical for black Americans wanting to travel across the country. [YouTube / Coleman Lowndes]


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