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North Korea Launches Missile, Trump Attacks Schumer and Pelosi in Response

Hours after North Korea launched its longest-ranging intercontinental ballistic missile test to date, U.S. president Donald Trump addressed the nation from the White House, scolding Senate Democrats Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for not meeting with the President and Republicans on Tuesday afternoon. The President spoke for five minutes at the start of the press briefing, sharing time with Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) but only had one message regarding North Korea: “I can tell you that we will take care of it…. It is a situation that we will handle.”

The Trump then pivoted quickly to the topic of the Democratic about-face, which came after the President tweeted about party’s top leaders Tuesday morning:

“Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” Schumer and Pelosi replied in a statement. “Rather than going to the White House for a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement, we’ve asked Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan to meet this afternoon.”

Just hours before the planned meeting, North Korea launched a missile that traveled roughly 620 miles, landing 200 miles west of Japan. The missile has been said to have traveled higher than any previous North Korean missile launch. According to Mattis, South Korea has launched pinpoint missiles out into the water in response, “to make sure that North Korea understands that they could be taken under fire by our ally,” said the general. Japan has also said it would shoot down North Korean missiles if it was threatened.

The lion’s share of Trump’s briefing was not spent on North Korea’s actions. Instead, it centered on the slight from Schumer and Pelosi, with both Ryan and McConnell registering their disappointment briefly. Trump unfurled an array of criticisms about the Democratic leaders, calling them weak on crime, illegal immigration, and military spending—topics that play well to his base and have little to do with the federal budget or tax reform bill that Republicans are trying to pass.

When asked if he would blame the Democrats over a government shutdown, President Trump said:

If it happens, I would absolutely blame the Democrats. If it happens, it’s going to be over illegals coming into the country, crime pouring into the country, no border wall, which everyone wants—I got elected partially because of the border wall. You look at the military, we want strong funding for the military; they don’t. They want high taxes; we want low taxes.

Toward the end of the briefing, Trump returned to the topic of the missile launch, attempting to tie it to his Democratic foes. “Things have changed over the last two hours, because two hours ago a missile was launched,” he said. “I think that will have a huge effect on Schumer and Pelosi. I think. We’ll see. We’re going to learn very soon. They should be calling immediately and saying ‘We want to see you,’ but probably they won’t, because nothing to them is important, other than raising taxes.”

The President gave his address seated at a table in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, with empty seats bearing name tags for the two Democratic senators on either side of him. Ryan, McConnell, and Mattis were positioned on other ends of the otherwise empty table.