From 'fire and fury' to 'great success,' North Korea is the exception, not the rule

President Donald Trump disembarks from Air Force One at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi on Feb. 26, 2019, upon his arrival in Vietnam. Copyright Manan Vatsyayana AFP - Getty Images
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — Call it the Trump Paradox: For all of the chaos he has unleashed at home and abroad, his presidency has made the situation on the Korean Peninsula more stable — at least for now.

Nuclear tests and "fire and fury" have been replaced by a second U.S. overseas summit with North Korea (happening today) and warmer relations between the two Koreas.

"I thought the first summit was a great success and I think this one ultimately will be equal or greater than the first," President Trump said today as he met with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.

But this relative stability also has come at significant potential cost.

U.S. intelligence officials are concerned that Trump might be giving away the store — the start of diplomatic relations, raising Kim Jong Un's stature, maybe withdrawing U.S. troops — without truly getting North Korea to end its nuclear program, NBC's Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube reported earlier this week.

And the relative stability on the Korean Peninsula has been the exception overseas — as Trump's chaos has made other foreign-policy situations more unstable.

And just this morning, tensions between India and Pakistan are escalating as two Indian warplanes were down a pilot was captured, per NBC News.

Relative stability in the Koreas versus instability almost everywhere else.

Michael Cohen on Trump: "He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat"

Former Trump attorney/fixer Michael Cohen testifies — publicly — before the House Oversight and Reform Committee beginning at 10:00 am ET, and here are excerpts of Cohen's opening remarks:

"Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for President, launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actually win. I regret the day I said "yes" to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way."

"I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat."

He will tell the committee that he's providing it a "copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account - after he became president - to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign."

"Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That's not how he operates. In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me there's no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie."

"There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me 'How's it going in Russia?' - referring to the Moscow Tower project."

"Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project."

"In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign."

Lightfoot, Preckwinkle advance to runoff in Chicago

Out of 14 total candidates for Chicago mayor, the two who advance to an April 2 runoff are two African-American women: former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board of Commissioners President Toni Preckwinkle.

And no candidate cracked 20 percent of the vote. Lightfoot got 17.5 percent, while Preckwinkle got 16.0 percent, per the Chicago Tribune. William Daley, who served as Commerce secretary under Bill Clinton and White House chief of staff under Barack Obama, finished third with 14.8 percent.


2020 Vision: Biden's still making up his mind

"Joe Biden said Tuesday that he's now 'certain' his family is prepared for a grueling political fight, but cautioned that a final decision about 2020 will come down to whether he feels confident he can secure the Democratic nomination," NBC's Mike Memoli writes.

"'I don't want this to be a fool's errand,' Biden said. 'I want to be sure that if we do this, and we're very close to getting to a decision, that I am fully prepared to do it.'"

More: "'I think we can [win the nomination.] I think that's where we are. But there's still a couple hurdles to go through to make sure we have this all in place.'"

On the trail today

John Delaney holds a town hall in South Carolina… Howard Schultz continues on his book tour, hitting Cleveland.

Data Download: The number of the day is… 43 percent

That's Republican Sen. John Cornyn's approval rating in his home state of Texas, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. Another quarter of Texans disapprove of Cornyn's performance, putting his NET approval at 17.


One person who's probably paying attention to those numbers? Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who's being encouraged to run for either president of the United States or to run against Cornyn in 2020.

Cornyn is less well known than Ted Cruz, who just barely beat O'Rourke in November. (About 31 percent of Texans don't have an opinion of Cornyn, while only nine percent say the same for Cruz.)

But Cruz's negatives — at 40 percent disapproval — are significantly higher than Cornyn's, putting *his* NET approval rating at 11.

ll of that paints a picture of a much trickier race for O'Rourke over Cornyn than his recent attempt to take on one of the Senate's most polarizing members.

Tweet of the day

The Lid: Salad Days

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when one of us (!!!) looks at the latest set of reports about presidential contender Amy Klobuchar — and whether gender is playing a role.


ICYMI: House rebukes Trump's emergency declaration

By a 245-182 vote (with 13 Republicans joining Democrats), the House passed a resolution Tuesday terminating Trump's declaration of a national emergency.

The House is poised to pass the first major bill addressing gun control for the first time in a generation.

Matt Gaetz is now apologizing for his tweet targeting Michael Cohen.

Wynn Resorts will pay a $20 million fine related to the sexual misconduct investigation around founder Steve Wynn, a former GOP booster.

It's official: Republican Mark Harris won't run again in NC-9.


Other news today you shouldn't miss…

Trump agenda: A split-screen day

Here's NBC's wrap from Hanoi of Trump's meeting with Kim Jong Un as controversy swirls at home.

There might be more trouble for Neomi Rao.

Kim Jong Un also wants a Nobel Prize.

Trump personally signed off on a U.S. military cyber operation that blocked internet access for a Russian troll farm in 2018.


The Supreme Court will take on a church-and-state case addressing a Maryland "Peace Cross."

Dem agenda: Subpoena time!

Democrats are issuing subpoenas over migrant family separations.

Experts say racism — not a lack of assimilation — is the real problem facing Latinos.

2020: Shakeup in Bernie World

Alex Seitz-Wald reports on a shakeup among Bernie Sanders' top staff.

Kamala Harris is trying to monopolize California Dem donors.


And Harris is now directly saying that she believes Trump is a racist.

Govs eyeing the White House may struggle to raise enough cash.

Midwestern governors are telling 2020 Dems to show up in their states.

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