Trump Splits From His Cabinet On 'Madman' Kim Jong-Un's Mental Health

A leaked phone call shows President Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a madman — but his administration has said Kim is perfectly sane.
Posted at 8:01 PM, May 24, 2017

Is North Korean leader Kim Jong-un mentally stable? President Trump didn't really comment when asked about it in late April.

"I can't answer your question on stability. I hope the answer is a positive one, not a negative one," Trump told a reporter.

But Trump seems to have made up his mind. Just a week later, he told Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte over the phone that Kim was a "madman with nuclear weapons."

A leaked transcript of the call, published by The Washington Post, records Duterte and Trump both describing Kim as a madman and agreeing that China could be leveraged to rein North Korea in.

Speculation about Kim's mental health tends to bubble up whenever North Korea starts acting out. The question has policy implications: Economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure might be less effective on an unstable world leader.

The Trump administration has insisted in the past that Kim's not actually unstable.

When CNN's Jake Tapper asked Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, "Do you think that Kim Jong-un is mentally unbalanced?"

Kelly responded, "Oh, heck, I don't know. He seems like someone who knows what he's doing."

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Fox News: "All indications are that he is not crazy. He may be ruthless, he may be a murderer, he may be someone who in many respects we would say by our standards is irrational. But he is not insane."

But Trump did reassure Duterte that the U.S. had two "nuclear submarines" stationed in the region. It's not clear if he was referring to the two nuclear-powered subs the U.S. Navy announced would be in the area, or vessels from the more secretive U.S. submarine fleet armed with nuclear weapons.