White House walks back Nikki Haley's Russia sanctions talk

- April 16, 2018

President Donald Trump walked back U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s assertion on Sunday that the administration would be imminently announcing another round of sanctions against Russia.

A White House official told POLITICO Monday that Trump had not signed off on the sanctions, despite Haley’s Sunday comments on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that they would be announced as soon as Monday.

The administration had reviewed a series of options as part of the response to the chemical attack in Syria earlier this month, including the sanctions on Russian entities, but Trump had not officially approved them, the official said.

"The sanctions were always something that was just under consideration," the official said, adding, "We would not have rolled out sanctions through somebody saying them on a Sunday show."

The official added that Trump had not totally ruled out additional sanctions, but was not prepared to move forward with them at this time. Trump’s decision wasfirst reported by the Washington Post.

Haley had made the additional sanctions sound like a done deal. "You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down," she said on CBS on Sunday, adding that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn't already, and they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use."


On Monday morning White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement officially walking back Haley’s comments, which had come under severe criticism from Russia. “We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future,” Sanders said.

A spokesman for Haley did not respond to a request for comment, while the State Department said it had nothing to announce at this time.

Trump’s hesitation to impose new sanctions on Russia was met with criticism by at least one Democrat. “Russia is aiding and abetting a mass murderer, and there should be consequences,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said in a statement. “There shouldn’t be any hesitation to apply new sanctions, which are necessary to send a message to the Kremlin that their reckless support for Assad’s brutality will not be tolerated.

The comments come just days after Trump ordered what he called "precision strikes" in Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack that U.S. officials have blamed on Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s regime.

In announcing the strikes, Trump delivered a pointed criticism of Russia. “Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace,” he said.

Sanders told reporters traveling with Trump to Florida on Monday that the president would still like to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite the current tension between the two countries. “The president still would like to sit down with him,” Sanders said.

Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.


 

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