President Trump on Monday claimed that first lady Melania Trump has “gotten to know” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, prompting the White House to clarify that the two have never met.
Trump made the comment at a news conference at the Group of 7 summit in Biarritz, France. While answering a question about Iran, the president took a detour to discuss the country’s real estate potential, then pivoted to North Korea.
“I also say that, by the way, with respect to North Korea, Kim Jong Un — who I’ve gotten to know extremely well; the first lady had gotten to know Kim Jong Un, and I think she’d agree with me — he is a man with a country that has tremendous potential,” Trump said.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement soon after noting that the first lady has never met Kim.
“President Trump confides in his wife on many issues including the detailed elements of his strong relationship with Chairman Kim — and while the First Lady hasn’t met him, the President feels like she’s gotten to know him too,” Grisham said.
The president first met with Kim in Singapore in June 2018. At the time, Trump said that even though the first lady wanted to accompany him, she was under doctors’ orders not to fly because of a medical procedure she’d had the previous month.
“Can’t fly for one month, the doctors say,” the president said. “She had a big operation. That was close to a four-hour operation.”
Earlier this year, Trump and Kim held their second summit in Hanoi. The first lady was also not present for that meeting, which was abruptly cut short amid disagreements on the trade-offs between the United States providing relief from sanctions and North Korea’s steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
In June, Trump and Kim met for the third time, at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. While the president’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, accompanied him on the visit and also briefly crossed into North Korea, the first lady was not present.
John Wagner contributed to this report.