Sarah Sanders Says Trump and Kim ‘Agree in Their Assessment’ of Biden

President Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, “agree” in their negative assessment of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said on Sunday.

Ms. Sanders, in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” also defended the president’s approach to efforts to denuclearize North Korea and deflected questions about whether Mr. Trump’s declaration of “treason” had predetermined the outcome of a review of the Russia investigation’s roots.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump seemed gratified that North Korea’s state media had described Mr. Biden, the Democratic candidate he views as the biggest threat to him in 2020, as a “fool of low IQ.”

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Mr. Trump wrote as he was traveling in Japan. “I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?”

Asked by Chuck Todd, the NBC host, about the president “essentially siding with a murderous authoritarian dictator over a former vice president of the United States,” Ms. Sanders replied, “The president’s not siding with that.”

She added: “I think they agree in their assessment of former Vice President Joe Biden. Again, the president’s focus in this process is the relationship he has and making sure we continue on the path towards denuclearization. That’s what he wants to see and that’s certainly what the people in this region want to see.”

Mr. Trump’s tweet continued his pattern of siding with strongmen, sometimes over the United States’ closest allies and his own intelligence agencies — and now over a former vice president. It also represented a split with his own advisers, who have expressed alarm over North Korea’s tests of short-range ballistic missiles this month. The same day Mr. Trump posted the message, the national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said there was “no doubt” the tests violated United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, said on Sunday that she found the tests “very disturbing” and that she “certainly wouldn’t trust Kim Jong-un.”

“So, I think we need to keep our eyes on North Korea,” Ms. Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I understand the president wants to maintain a relationship with North Korea, so that we can work with them. However, those strikes are disturbing.”

But Ms. Sanders said that as the president continued to work toward denuclearization, he felt “comfortable and confident in the relationship that he has with Chairman Kim and that he’s going to stay true to the commitment that he made to the president.”

Ms. Sanders also defended Mr. Trump’s decision to give Attorney General William P. Barr sweeping power to declassify information related to the investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia, saying: “We already know that there was an outrageous amount of corruption that took place at the F.B.I. They leaked information. They lied.”

Mr. Todd, however, questioned why Mr. Trump had asked for the inquiry when he had seemingly already concluded that the investigators’ actions were “treason,” a statement the president has made repeatedly.

Ms. Sanders did not respond directly to the question, saying only: “That’s pretty rich coming from the media who relentlessly covered and accused the president, for over two years, of being a part of this massive election interference, something that never took place. The idea that anybody now says that the president doesn’t have the right, and not only that Americans deserve the truth, to push back and find out where all of this started is absurd.”


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