WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump sparred Sunday with The Wall Street Journal over whether he already has or would have a good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a frequent target of the U.S. leader's vitriol over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons development.
Four reporters for the newspaper interviewed Trump at the White House last week, with both the Journal and Trump officials recording it. But now they are disputing what he said about Kim.
At one point, Trump, according to the newspaper's transcript, said he has "a great relationship" with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, adding, "and I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.
"I have relationships with people, I think you people are surprised," he said.
A Journal reporter interjected, saying, "Just to be clear, you haven’t spoken to the North Korean leader, I mean when you say a relationship with Korea—"
But Trump responded, "I don’t want to comment on it—I don’t want to comment, I’m not saying I have or I haven’t. But I just don’t—"
The reporter said, "Some people would see your tweets, which are sometimes combative towards Kim Jong Un..."
Trump responded, "Sure, you see that a lot with me and then all of a sudden somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You give me 30. I’m a very flexible person."
On Sunday, however, Trump, in a Twitter comment, rebuffed the newspaper's version of the quote related to Kim, saying, "The Wall Street Journal stated falsely that I said to them 'I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un' (of N. Korea). Obviously I didn’t say that. I said 'I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,' a big difference. Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters and they knew exactly what I said and meant. They just wanted a story. FAKE NEWS!"
The Wall Street Journal stated falsely that I said to them “I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un” (of N. Korea). Obviously I didn’t say that. I said “I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,” a big difference. Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2018
Both the newspaper and the White House posted their recordings of the interview and it appears the newspaper's recounting of the quote is accurate, even if Trump now says he meant that he would have a good relationship with Kim at some point down the road.
"We have reviewed the audio http://on.wsj.com/2r4IW2z from our interview with President Trump, as well as the transcript provided by an external service," the newspaper said, "and stand by what we reported."
We have reviewed the audio from our interview with President Trump, as well as the transcript provided by an external service, and stand by what we reported. Here is audio of the portion the White House disputes. https://t.co/eWcmiHrXJg pic.twitter.com/bx9fGFWaPw— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) January 14, 2018
The White House said, "Here is the official audio showing WSJ misquoting" the president.