A debate ensued online about whether the Times accurately characterized Pottinger, who never used the word “impossible,” although he did come close, saying that the summit date is “in 10 minutes, and it’s going to be — you know…” without finishing the thought.

But there is no debate about whether Pottinger is real. More than that, he is among Trump’s longest-serving aides. As the national security council’s director for Asia, the sandy-haired and boyish-looking 45-year-old is the president’s top adviser on North Korea and China. He organized Trump’s 12-day trip to Asia last fall, during which he was rarely far from the president’s side. He has played a central role in coordinating Trump’s North Korea policy since early last year — one reason he was among a handful of U.S. officials to fly into Pyongyang earlier this month with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And he has been in the thick of White House preparations for a possible summit with Kim.

Pottinger, says former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, is “one of the most significant people in the entire U.S. government.”