The White House says President Trump has accepted an invitation to meet directly with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. This is South Korea’s National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong, speaking to reporters Thursday night outside the White House after briefing officials on the recent talks between Seoul and Pyongyang.
Chung Eui-yong: “President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un, by May, to achieve permanent denuclearization.”
The South Korean official went on to say the meeting would take place within two months. No sitting U.S. president has ever met with a North Korean leader. Kim Jong-un has never met another head of state.
Thursday night’s announcement was a complete surprise. It came at a time when Trump has been beset with escalating questions about his alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels, including questions about whether a $130,000 payoff to her, sent by Trump’s personal lawyer only days before the 2016 election, could have violated federal election law.
Thursday’s announcement of direct talks even appeared to be a complete surprise within the Trump White House. Only hours earlier, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said talks were a long way away.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “In terms of direct talks with the United States—and you asked negotiations, and we’re a long ways from negotiations. I think it’s—we just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it.”
That was Tillerson speaking Thursday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This is Tillerson speaking today in Djibouti.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “In terms of the decision to engage, between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, that’s a decision the president took himself.”
The potential talks between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un come after a delegation of South Korean officials traveled to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong-un, where he said he’d suspend nuclear weapons testing in order to hold talks with the United States. We’ll have more on the possible talks between the U.S. and North Korea after headlines.
In Syria, the government is continuing to launch airstrikes and shelling against Eastern Ghouta, outside the capital Damascus. Monitors say more than a dozen people were killed Thursday. The group Doctors Without Borders says more than 1,000 people have been killed and nearly 5,000 more have been wounded in the last two weeks alone. On Thursday, France reiterated its threats of intervention against the Syrian government, if claims of chemical weapons attacks in Eastern Ghouta are verified. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied carrying out chemical weapons attacks during the ongoing conflict, including in Eastern Ghouta.
In Afghanistan, officials say at least seven people were killed and seven others wounded in a suicide attack in the capital Kabul today. Meanwhile, Pakistani officials say a suspected U.S. drone strike in eastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan killed more than 20 people on Wednesday. The officials say the victims were members of the Pakistani Taliban.
President Trump signed controversial orders to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum on Thursday, while surrounded by steelworkers.
President Donald Trump: “Today I’m defending America’s national security by placing tariffs on foreign imports of steel and aluminum. We will have a 25 percent tariff on foreign steel and a 10 percent tariff on foreign aluminum when the product comes across our borders.”
The tariffs, which have sparked tensions with U.S. allies, will temporarily exclude Mexico and Canada, despite the White House earlier saying there would be no exceptions to the tariffs.
President Donald Trump: “At the same time, due to the unique nature of our relationship with Canada and Mexico, we’re negotiating right now NAFTA, and we’re going to hold off the tariff on those two countries to see whether or not we’re able to make the deal on NAFTA—national security, very important aspect of that deal.”
After signing the tariffs, Trump now heads to a steel mining area of Pennsylvania, where he’ll hold a rally Saturday night to campaign for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone, who is facing off against Democratic former prosecutor and Marine Corps Captain Conor Lamb in a special election on March 13. The special election will fill the seat left vacant by Republican Tim Murphy, who resigned last year after revelations that the vehemently anti-abortion lawmaker had pressured a woman he was having an affair with to have an abortion.
The Mississippi Legislature has passed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country, banning abortions after 15 weeks, even in the case of rape or incest. Mississippi Republican Governor Phil Bryant has signaled he’ll sign the bill, tweeting, “As I have repeatedly said, I want Mississippi to be the safest place in America for an unborn child.”
The White House is refusing to comply with the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into how former White House staff secretary Rob Porter was allowed to work with interim security clearances. The FBI says Porter didn’t receive full security clearances because his background check was held up by accusations of verbal and physical abuse by his two ex-wives. The White House knew these allegations were holding up his background check, but it continued to allow him to serve in the administration until Porter was forced to resign when evidence of the abuse surfaced, including photos showing Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, with a black eye.
In Turkey, the Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned a Turkish court for sentencing at least 22 journalists to prison time on terrorism-related charges. All the journalists deny the accusations. Their sentences come amid a widespread crackdown by the Turkish government against journalists, academics and human rights activists.
Meanwhile, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, has detained a prominent immigrant and reproductive rights activist named Alejandra Pablos. Advocates say her detention during her routine ICE check-in in Phoenix is retaliation for her activism, particularly for protesting outside the Homeland Security Department office in Virginia earlier this year. Pablos works for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. She is a legal permanent resident who grew up in Arizona, but a conviction for driving under the influence nearly a decade ago makes her subject to deportation. This is Alejandra Pablos, speaking in a Facebook video after she was detained.
Alejandra Pablos: “If you’re seeing this, I just got detained by ICE. I went to go check in. I went to court yesterday. I turned in my political asylum application. And I have court on December 14th. But I went in today thinking that they were going to readjust my bond. I was recently detained in Virginia at a protest, a DHS protest. And now I’m being detained illegally, and I’m going to the Eloy Detention Center, where I was already there for two years. … They’re retaliating against all activists, all organizers, people who have advocacy and who are out there fighting.”
And women across the world took to the streets to mark International Women’s Day on Thursday. In Spain, women launched the first-ever nationwide feminist strike. In Italy, women led a major transportation strike that shut down many trains, buses and flights across Italy. In Argentina, tens of thousands of women marched, only days after Argentine lawmakers agreed for the first time to debate the legalization of abortion. Rallies were also held from Afghanistan to South Korea to India to the Syrian-Turkish border.
In the United States, teachers in Arizona wore red to work and discussed a possible strike, on the heels of the successful West Virginia teachers’ strike, where most of the teachers are women. In New York City, hundreds marched through downtown Manhattan. This is Genesis Aquino, a university student and member of the Laundry Workers Center.
Genesis Aquino: “As an immigrant, as a black woman, my life is affected a lot by all these policies that the new administration is trying to put in place. My livelihood is being put in danger. So we are fighting for better housing rights, for labor rights, for safe conditions, for anti-harassment and just to live safe and to be able to be alive, you know? For less police killings.”
Later in the broadcast, we’ll speak with The New York Times editor who has launched a new series called “Overlooked,” which is publishing obituaries about extraordinary women who did not receive New York Times obituaries at the time of their deaths.