WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday threatened to “hold up” the trade agreement his administration finalized with South Korea this week in an effort to gain more leverage in potential talks with North Korea.
Speaking on infrastructure in Ohio, Trump highlighted the recently completed renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, but he warned: “I may hold it up until after a deal is made with North Korea.” The announcement comes as the two Koreas have announced plans to hold bilateral meetings next month in advance of a possible meeting between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un by the end of May.
Trump noted the “rhetoric has calmed down” with North Korea, but added he may hold up the first trade agreement concluded by his administration, “because it’s a very strong card and I want to make sure everyone is treated fairly.”
Attempting to focus on policy, Trump visited Richfield, Ohio to push for upgrades to the nation’s aging roads and bridges in his first public appearance since an adult-film actress claimed on national TV that they had sex months after his wife gave birth to his fifth child.
He called for a plan deploying $200 billion in federal money to spur at least $1.5 trillion in spending over a decade to repair or replace highways, bridges, ports, airports and other infrastructure.
“We will transform our roads and bridges from a source of endless frustration into a source of incredible pride,” he said.
Trump unveiled the sweeping infrastructure proposal in February and cast it as one that could garner bipartisan support. But the plan relies heavily on state and local governments for the bulk of the spending, raising concerns among members of Congress about the possibility of higher commuter tolls and the sale of assets to raise the money.
There is little expectation that Congress will take up a sweeping infrastructure proposal along the lines of what Trump envisions — or that Republicans in control of the House and Senate will write their own legislation — as lawmakers begin to shift their focus to the challenge of getting re-elected in November.
Instead, Congress plans to package a series of related measures, including beefed-up spending in the big budget bill Trump signed into law last week. That bill, which funds the government through Sept. 30, included more money for transportation projects, rural broadband and other investments.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., promoted it in a tweet as “long-overdue updates to our country’s infrastructure.”
Trump had last been seen in public on Friday, when he used an appearance at the White House to criticize a massive government funding bill he had signed into law. The president, first lady Melania Trump and their 12-year-old son, Barron, spent last weekend at their Palm Beach, Florida, estate. Trump returned to the White House on Sunday shortly before CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired its interview with porn actress Stormy Daniels, who says the married Trump had sex with her in his Lake Tahoe hotel room in 2006.
Trump, through his personal attorney and White House aides, has denied the affair. He has not commented on the allegations himself.
The president has kept a relatively low profile since the broadcast, except for several tweets. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Trump was hiding out.
“He’s been incredibly active all week long,” she said, pointing to actions by Trump on trade and the expulsion of scores of Russian intelligence officials.
Trump has previously suggested the infrastructure proposal was not as important to him as other efforts to cut taxes and increase military spending.
“What was very important to me was the military, what was very important to me was the tax cuts, and what was very important to me was regulation,” Trump said as he unveiled the plan in February before state and local leaders gathered at the White House.
In Ohio, Trump also discussed findings in a new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers saying the infrastructure proposal would contribute modestly to economic growth over the 10-year period and help put hundreds of thousands of unemployed laborers back to work.
Trump was returning to his Florida home after the speech.