A career intelligence analyst who is an expert in hostage policy stood before President Donald Trump in the Oval Office last fall to brief him on the impending release of a family long held in Pakistan under uncertain circumstances.
It was her first time meeting the president, and when she was done briefing, he had a question for her.
"Where are you from?" the president asked, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the exchange.
New York, she replied.
Trump was unsatisfied and asked again, the officials said. Referring to the president's hometown, she offered that she, too, was from Manhattan. But that's not what the president was after.
He wanted to know where "your people" are from, according to the officials, who spoke under condition of anonymity due to the nature of the internal discussions.
After the analyst revealed that her parents are Korean, Trump turned to an adviser in the room and seemed to suggest her ethnicity should determine her career path, asking why the "pretty Korean lady" isn't negotiating with North Korea on his administration's behalf, the officials said.