The White House advance team has not canceled its travel plans to Singapore for a logistics meeting on the proposed summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, even though President Donald Trump on Thursday said he was pulling out of the historic meeting.
As of Friday morning, the advance team of about 30 White House staffers and State Department officials is still planning to leave for a logistics meeting Southeast Asia on Sunday, according to two people familiar with the planning – though they cautioned the trip could still be canceled before departure.
The team is expected to travel halfway across the globe in order to “keep the door open” on a summit, one White House official said – even though the president announced in a letter on Thursday the meeting was officially off following provocative statements from the North Koreans.
On Friday morning, Trump hinted the meeting could be rescheduled in about-face comments he made to reporters.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said as he departed for the Naval Academy graduation ceremony in Annapolis, Maryland. “It could even be the 12th. We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it. We’ll see what happens.”
The White House appears to be trying to keep up with the uncertainty by having a team on the ground in Asia, just in case.
The manifest for the trip to Singapore, obtained by POLITICO, includes a large advance team lead by deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin and special assistant to the president Patrick Clifton. Also on the manifest: director of presidential advance Bobby Peede, Bill Hughes, Ben Miller, Hannah Salem and Rebecca Wasserstein.
The team is set to arrive in Japan on May 28 and will leave for Singapore the same day, according to the manifest.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to comment.
Trump's Friday morning comments – as well as the advance team forging ahead with its travel plans – contradicted the official White House line spouted by spokesman Hogan Gidley just an hour earlier.
“Right now at this moment, Kim Jon Un, people at the highest level have not communicated with our government and so we’re stepping back,” Gidley told Fox News.
White House aides watched Trump's remarks on television from inside the West Wing as he departed for Annapolis.
In an early morning tweet, Trump also hinted he wasn’t throwing in the towel on a meeting that he considers a referendum on his famed deal-making skills.
“Very good news to receive the warm and productive statement from North Korea,” he tweeted. “We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!”