Donald Trump will return on Tuesday from his red carpet trip to Japan facing severe criticism after he endorsed remarks made by North Korea mocking his US national security adviser John Bolton and 2020 rival Joe Biden, rather than take Pyongyang to task for defying UN Security Council resolutions on missile testing.
“Kim Jong-un is a murderous dictator and Vice-President Biden served this country honourably”, 2020 challenger Pete Buttigieg responded after President Trump responded to Mr Kim’s suggestion that Mr Biden was “a low IQ individual” by saying: “He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that.”
Touching down in Washington, the president is also expected to continue facing calls for his impeachment by Democrats in the House of Representatives. While there is a growing push for impeachment proceedings, top Democratic leadership have remained skeptical about the mesaure — and any successful impeachment would almost surely be struck down in the Senate.
Please allow a moment for our liveblog to load
Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.
Donald Trump is flying back from Tokyo today after a memorable four-day visit to Japan that saw him become the first head of state to meet the country's new emperor, Naruhito, play 18 holes of golf and talk trade, North Korea, Iran and trade with prime minister Shinzo Abe at the opulent Akasaka Palace and even present a sumo trophy.
Despite being given the red-carpet treatment in the land of the rising sun (with his hosts thoughtfully catering to his tastes by laying on burgers and wrestling), Trump reportedly complained to aides that he could not get Fox News in his hotel and spent much of his time tweeting about post-election Israeli politics, the 1994 Crime Bill, "fake news", his possible impeachment and the Democrats.
He might as well have been at Mar-a-Lago.
The trip afforded many easy photo opportunities and allowed Trump to play the statesman on the world stage but his continuation of old themes and feuds on Twitter and the usual steady stream of retweets from Fox threatened to drag him back down into a mire he had a rare chance to sidestep.
He also struggled to hide his differences of opinion with Shinzo Abe over North Korea and trade. In particular he disagreed with his hosts (and own advisers) over the significance of short-range missile tests being carried out by Pyongyang in apparent violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Trump's own national security adviser, John Bolton, said last week there was “no doubt” the rogue state had violated the resolutions by carrying out the blasts but the president was dismissive: “My people think it could have been a violation, as you know. I view it differently.”
North Korea's foreign ministry responded to Bolton on Monday by calling him "more than ignorant", "a war maniac" and "a structurally defective guy", none of which Trump disagreed with. He did say he considered Kim Jong-un "a smart man", if something of an attention-seeker.
Asked if he was concerned by the tests, Trump replied: "I’m not. I personally am not." Abe, stood beside him at a joint press conference when he said this, has previously called the near-neighbour's ongoing programme a matter of "great regret".
Here's more from Chris Baynes.
Looking at it kindly, you could say Trump deserves credit for downplaying tensions with North Korea.
But backing Kim over his attack on 2020 rival Joe Biden was less smart.
Among those critical of the president for the above statement was another Democratic presidential hopeful, Pete Buttigieg, who summarised the situation very succinctly indeed.
The last leg of Trump's tour saw him visit a Japanese destroyer and then the USS Wasp docked at the mouth of Tokyo Bay. Aboard ship, Trump gave a Memorial Day speech to hundreds of members of the US Navy's 7th Fleet.
Trump wished the assembled servicemen and women a "Happy Memorial Day", a controversial greeting given that that the purpose of this solemn occasion is to remember fallen colleagues - there's very little to be "happy" about.
Trump called his audience "daring and mighty warriors in the Pacific" and said the US-Japan alliance has never been stronger. He went on to repeat a criticism he last made against Boeing regarding the advance of technology: "They’re always coming up with new ideas. They’re making planes so complex you can’t fly them. We all want innovation, but it’s too much."
If you were wondering how well a man who allegedly once said "I'm not going to Vietnam - you think I'm stupid?" might be received by the US military, here's your answer:
Apparently forgiving, the airmen chanted "USA! USA!" and asked their commander-in-chief to sign their caps.
For his part, Mayor Pete, a veteran himself, was as unimpressed by Trump's claim to suffer from bone spurs, which saw him escape the Vietnam draft on five occasions, as he was with his backing Kim.
Trump also honoured Memorial Day on Twitter with several posts, including this video from Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia (shot before the Japan jaunt) in which he and Melania place single stars-and-stripes flags before headstones while soldiers do the majority of the legwork, marching up and down from grave to grave planting hundreds.
You might be expecting a quiet one from Trump online today as he's travelling aboard Air Force One but he's already tweeted these words of reassurance regarding tornado devastation in Oklahoma.
Here's what's happening over there.
When Trump touches down in Washington later today, he will find himself facing renewed calls for his impeachment from House Democrats.
But never fear MAGA fans, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has your back.
The Hill reports that Republican senators Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn are pledging to quash any articles of impeachment that reach the upper chamber, which is overseen by McConnell, giving him broad parameters to control the issue.
"I think it would be disposed of very quickly," said Graham, a Trump opponent turned loyalist who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. "If it’s based on the Mueller report, or anything like that, it would be quickly disposed of."
"It would be defeated. That’s why all they want to do is talk about it," Cornyn added. "They know what the outcome would be."
"Why on earth would we give a platform to something that I judge as a purely political exercise?" said another Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina. "We have to perform our constitutional duty, but if people think that we’re going to try and create a theater that could give you the perception that this is a matter that rises to the level of Watergate, that’s nonsense."
Many GOP senators would be in favour of McConnell giving the issue floor time in the Senate so that they could quickly shoot it down. Their party holds a 53-47 majority in the chamber, with Vice-President Mike Pence given the tie-breaking vote, should it come to that.
Any Senate trial would be overseen by Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts but he would be bound by the rules and traditions of the Senate, where the majority leader sets the schedule and has the right of first recognition.
Democrats would need to persuade at least four Republicans to break with McConnell in order to bring in any witnesses or exhibits he decides to block, which would mean appealing to moderates like Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Cory Gardner and Martha McSally, who last rebelled over Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the US-Mexico border.
Fewer than 40 percent of Americans currently support impeachment proceedings against Trump, according to recent polls.
Spare a thought for the Washington press lobby today, who apparently find being on Air Force One "like being held captive" as Trump doesn't get enough sleep and prefers to stay up talking "business, sports and gossip".
According to Victoria Gagliardo-Silver: "There is incredibly limited sleeping space... and Fox News is constantly blaring on the TV. Mr Trump brings boxes full of magazines, newspapers and hours of pre-recorded cable footage on board to review how he’s seen in the media, sometimes waking staffers to discuss and draft a response to a bad headline, telling the staffers to 'fix it' rather than review materials for his upcoming meetings."
It takes 12 hours and 40 minutes to fly from Tokyo to Washington, I'm told.
New York federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating a $1m (£790,000) donation made to the Trump campaign's inauguration committee by real estate developer Frank Haney, who is seeking approval and government support in purchasing the unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama.
The president's still working on draining that swamp, I trust?
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies