WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump rejected, for now at least, a fresh round of sanctions set to be imposed against Russia on Monday, a course change that underscored the schism between the president and his national security team.
The president’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, had announced Sunday that the administration would place sanctions on Russian companies found to be assisting Syria’s chemical weapons program. The sanctions were listed on a menu of further government options after a U.S.-led airstrike on Syria, retaliating against a suspected gas attack that killed dozens a week earlier.
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley listens during a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting concerning the situation in Syria, at United Nations headquarters, April 14, 2018 in New York City.
But the White House contradicted her on Monday, saying that Trump had not approved additional measures.
“We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.
Speaking later with reporters aboard Air Force One as Trump headed to Florida, Sanders added that “the president has been clear that he’s going to be tough on Russia, but at the same time he’d still like to have a good relationship with them.”
Another White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations, said Trump had decided not to go forward with the sanctions. Trump concluded that they were unnecessary because Moscow’s response to the airstrike was mainly bluster, the official said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders talks to reporters during the daily press briefing in the Brady press briefing room at the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
Russia analysts said the whipsaw policy shift once again highlighted an administration struggling to find a coherent and consistent voice in dealing with Russia, which in the past four years has annexed Crimea, intervened in eastern Ukraine, sought to influence the U.S. election in 2016, allegedly poisoned a former Russian spy living in Britain and propped up the murderous government of President Bashar Assad in Syria.
Trump has mostly spoken hopefully of his efforts to forge a friendship with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, including congratulating him on a re-election widely denounced as a sham and even suggesting a White House meeting. At the same time, the Trump administration has imposed two rounds of sanctions against …read more