On CNN Monday morning, Princeton history professor Julian Zelizer weighed in on the president's priorities ahead of his second meeting this week with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. He warned that the president might sign a "bad deal" with the North Koreans to distract from Michael Cohen's testimony this week in Congress:
CNN HOST: And I want to go back to the first tweet, there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. That's what the president said. What can he gain from this, materially gain in terms of denuclearization from the North Koreans?
JULIAN ZELIZER: He needs some kind of assurance and verification. This is something that you can actually look at, something that you can set into place. So far, we don't have any kind of progress from the first summit. So the question is, does the president come out with some kind of tangible progress or is it more rhetoric about the key aim of U.S. foreign policy, which is denuclearization.
Obviously, there are other big items, like ending war would be big, forging economic ties, but that is the number one priority.
CNN HOST: Both the process and timing are important. Look at the process the president went through, or lack thereof with pulling the troops out of Syria. There was no process. The timing this time around is just as he is meeting with Kim Jong Un -- Michael Cohen is on capitol hill, he has two private meetings and one public testimony on capitol hill. How could that impact the negotiations we see in North Korea, what could we see the president give away? You mentioned, of course, ending the Korean War. Could it be troops and how could this impact.
JULIAN ZELIZER: The fear is that he gets into a bad agreement to make big news and hopefully, in his mind distracts the public from what Michael Cohen is saying, or what else is going on in the investigation. And you could end up with a historic turning point where North Korea gets a lot of what it is looking for, international standing, new kind of diplomatic stature because the president's worried about an investigation without denuclearization. So that is what a lot of national security experts are worried about. And because the president doesn't have really a grand strategy, it is not clever, it is often sloppy, that is always a risk.
CNN HOST: And the president is also negotiating with the Chinese at the same time, and he is praising the Chinese for their help with North Korea, and he didn't raise tariffs. He extended the deadline. This is three dimensional chess really.
JULIAN ZELIZER: China's leverage is greater in some ways because the president can't withstand an unstable economy here in the United States. So that keeps driving him away from his threats. North Korea, it is a really different dynamic. North Korea has to change internally. The markets won't work there if the North Korean government remains the same. Vietnam changed dramatically since the 1960s.