Could a Trump Deal with Kim Jong Un be the October Surprise? John Bolton Seems to Think So

Former national security adviser John Bolton's memoir of his time in the White House, "The Room Where It Happened," has been widely picked over for its accounts of palace intrigue, its confirmation of the actions that led to the president's impeachment, and Bolton's concerns that the Democrats actually rushed to impeach on too few charges.

But, overlooked amid the gossip and the Monday morning quarterbacking — and ironic, given Bolton’s disdain for diplomacy with North Korea — is that Bolton's book presages a path to a potential “October surprise” deal with the rogue nation to burnish President Donald Trump's self-professed deal-making skills ahead of the November elections.

In his recollection of the February 2019 Hanoi summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Trump, Bolton said he was pleased that Trump had internalized the point that sanctions on North Korea had given him leverage over Kim, and therefore he should not give them up unless Kim were to give up all nuclear weapons. Trump, Bolton wrote, surmised that it would be better — and better theater — to walk away from the summit empty-handed rather than to give up the sanctions. (Bolton specified that Trump called on his dating experience to determine that it is better to be the “dumper” rather than the “dumpee.”

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Victor Cha
Senior Vice President for Asia and Korea Chair