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Is Dennis Rodman doing Trump's work for him with Kim Jong Un?

Is the former NBA star — who has a pretty long history with both volatile men — making a love match?
Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman. (Photo: Reuters)

Dennis Rodman has praised President Trump's sudden announcement that he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Normally, that might not be newsworthy. But the former NBA star is one of only two people in the world who've met both Trump and Kim. 

“Well done President Trump,” Rodman told The Washington Post in a statement. “You're on the way to a historical meeting no U.S. president has ever done. I'm looking forward to bringing more basketball diplomacy to North Korea in the upcoming months. Please send my regards to Marshall Kim Jong-un and his family.”

"I said it back in 2014 on CNN that the door will open eventually," Rodman said in a statement to USA Today, adding that he would "love to" accompany Trump on his summit.

Rodman's history with the two men: In 2013, Trump fired Rodman from NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" because he misspelled Melania Trump's name. In recent years, Rodman has made several trips to North Korea to meet with Kim, a Chicago Bulls obsessive, explaining his intent with the "basketball diplomacy" line.

But U.S. officials distanced the government from his trips, and he was roundly criticized for hanging with Kim instead of pushing to have American hostages released.

Sitting U.S. presidents have refused to meet directly with Kim so as not to legitimize his brutal, belligerent regime. Last year, it tested a hydrogen bomb and an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.

But is it Rodman who planted the seed for an unprecedented sit-down in Trump's head? After a visit in 2013, Rodman suggested that he and Trump (then just the "Apprentice" host) go to North Korea together to meet with Kim. In May 2014, he told "DuJour" magazine that Trump "wanted to go. He wanted to give me his plane to go over there. Then all of sudden he started to get all weird and s--t."

Trump responded: "Crazy Dennis Rodman is saying I wanted to go to North Korea with him. Never discussed, no interest, last place on Earth I want to go to."

Because that was the era of 140 characters, Trump had to send a part two: "Dennis Rodman was either drunk or on drugs (delusional) when he said I wanted to go to North Korea with him. Glad I fired him on Apprentice!" 

But Rodman seems to have no hard feelings. Before his most recent trip to North Korea in June 2017, he implied that Trump was happy he was going.

And perhaps Rodman did some greasing of the diplomatic runway. On that trip, he presented North Korean leadership with a copy of Trump's 1987 book "The Art of the Deal." In December, he asked Trump to send him to North Korea as a peace envoy and told Agence France-Presse that Trump and Kim are "pretty much the same people... They love control. Ain't nobody got no finger on the button." 

Until last Thursday, Rodman was the only person who had met both Kim and Trump. That changed when South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong went to Pyongyang to meet with Kim, then came to Washington, D.C. to brief Trump.