It started almost before the beginning. On Jan. 26, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump asked Matt Pottinger — who would later become deputy national security adviser — to prepare options on North Korea. It was only his sixth day in office.
Tensions were high. Pottinger came back with a spectrum bent in the direction of malign rather than benign: Options ranged from accepting North Korea as a nuclear power to regime change through CIA covert action or a military attack.