Trump and Bolton spurn top-level North Korea planning

Senior officials from both the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations called the absence of a formal interagency process before such a consequential meeting troubling. Peter Feaver, a former National Security Council (NSC) official in the George W. Bush White House, said his colleagues would likely have held “quite a few” meetings of the so-called Principals Committee of Cabinet-level NSC members in a comparable situation. A former top Obama White House official echoed that point, calling the lack of top-level NSC meetings “shocking.”…

But officials say that the policymaking process across the White House, never a tightly organized affair, has recently grown less disciplined. They point to John Kelly’s loosening grip on the West Wing, which Trump has always chafed at, and with it, the dissolution of many of the processes he tried to institute when he arrived a year ago. This has affected not just North Korea but the president’s recent imposition of tariffs on American allies. Many also cite Trump’s frustration with Bolton, who has irritated the president after just two months on the job…

Part of the problem is Trump’s on-and-off chemistry with Bolton. The president fumed after Bolton spoke of a hardline “Libya model” for North Korean denuclearization on CBS News in late April — implying that the U.S. would make no concessions until after Kim had physically surrendered his nuclear program. After North Korea responded furiously, Trump blamed Bolton for derailing the summit. In turn, Trump dictated to Bolton a letter to Kim canceling the nuclear summit and insisted that Bolton read it back to him.