President Trump was fleeced by Kim Jong-un. During Tuesday's summit between the two world leaders, Trump legitimized Kim's regime while promising to end joint defense testing with South Korea, something the president's advisers have repeatedly warned him against. In return, Kim offered nothing more than a vague commitment to work toward denuclearization. This was plenty to satisfy Trump, who spent most of his time on camera following the summit doing public relations work for his new authoritarian friend, with whom he says he has developed a "special bond."
"Really, he's got a great personality," the president told Greta Van Susteren in an interview after the meeting. "He's a funny guy, he's very smart, he's a great negotiator. He loves his people, not that I'm surprised by that, but he loves his people."
Trump praised the dictator effusively during a press conference following the summit, as well, calling him "very talented" before lauding his ability to take over the North Korean regime at the age of 26. "One out of ten thousand probably couldn't do it," Trump said.
#Trump at press conference after #SingaporeSummit on why he is so comfortable calling Kim Jong-un--a person who killed his own family members, starved his own people, and is responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier--"talented." #OttoWarmbier pic.twitter.com/1pgYbTPS3Z— Jeffrey Guterman (@JeffreyGuterman) June 12, 2018
His admiration for Kim was also a theme of his interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos that lasted nearly 15 minutes. Backed by an alternating row of American and North Korean flags – the reds of which complemented the hue of Trump's face nicely – the president gushed over the North Korean leader while professing his trust in Kim's desire to give up his nuclear arsenal. "He’s de-nuking the whole place," Trump said. "He’s going to start very quickly. I think he’s going to start now."
"He means it," the president added. "He really wants to do something.”
Trump also divulged to Stephanopoulos that he may have begun developing a bond with his new BFF prior to Tuesday's meeting. "I have spoken, yes, I have spoken to him," Trump said when asked if he had any communication with Kim in the months leading up to the summit.
As he did with Van Susteren and during the post-summit press conference, Trump also tried to relate to Stephanopoulos how much Kim loves his people, and how much his people love him. "His county does love him," Trump said. "His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor."
Kim Jong-un is, of course, a ruthlessly brutal dictator and one of the world's worst human rights violators. North Korea is a police state, and residents suspected of defying the regime are often banished without trial to gruesome prisons, where inmates are routinely starved and tortured. Kim also has a taste for executing his perceived enemies. As the New York Times points out, Kim has ordered at least 340 executions since taking power in 2011, including that of his own deputy premier for education, who in 2016 was killed by a firing squad for "disrespectful posture." The nation's general over the armed forces was executed with an antiaircraft gun for falling asleep in a meeting.
Trump's praise of Kim isn't the first time he's lauded the leadership of authoritarian heads of state. His admiration for Russia's Vladimir Putin is well documented, and the president has on multiple occasions spoken of his "great relationship" with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has slaughtered thousands of his own citizens as part of the nation's war on the drug trade. Trump has said Duterte is doing an "unbelievable job" in handling the situation. Meanwhile, Trump has been fiercely critical of America's closest allies. Following the G-7 summit that preceded his trip to Singapore to meet with Kim, the president called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "weak" and "dishonest."
When Stephanopoulos and others brought up North Korea's myriad human rights violations, Trump was dismissive. "George, I’m given what I’m given," Trump said when asked how he could trust a leader who starves his own people. "This is where we are." The president added once again that he believes Kim "wants to do the right thing" and "really wants to do a great job."
After historic summit, @ABC News' @GStephanopoulos asked Pres. Trump, "How do you trust a killer like that?"— ABC News (@ABC) June 12, 2018
Trump: "I'm given what I'm given, okay? I mean, this is what we have and this is where we are." https://t.co/Vkt0dIxogj pic.twitter.com/8ppDkB08Dy
When asked about Kim's treatment of his people during the press conference, Trump noted that "it's rough in a lot of places." In response to a similar question from Van Susteren, Trump said, "Look, he's doing what he's seen done" and "I really have to go by today and by yesterday and by a couple of weeks ago, because that's really when this whole things started."
Trump's faith in a dictator whose nation has repeatedly reneged on agreements with the United States may seem naive, but it isn't difficult to understand how Kim was able to ingratiate himself to the president so easily: He just flattered the hell out of him. "He trusts me, I believe, I really do," Trump told Stephanopoulos. "He said openly and said it to a couple of reporters that no other president ever could have done this."
Trump doesn't seem very concerned about the prospect of being wrong about Kim, which of course could result in desire consequences for the United States and the rest of the world.
President Trump says he thinks Kim Jong Un will follow through with agreement:— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 12, 2018
"I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in 6 months and say, 'Hey, I was wrong.' I don't know that I'll ever admit that, but I'll find some kind of an excuse."https://t.co/SjJeNHlVRD pic.twitter.com/wXBWhvMvd0
The art of the deal.