Donald Trump returned to a news conference on Wednesday to proclaim that nobody has been tougher on Russia than him.
Trump broke off from a handshake with the Japanese prime minister to respond to shouted questions from the press on his decision Monday to abandon planned sanctions on Russia.
‘There will be sanctions as soon as they very much deserve it,’ he retorted. ‘There has been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump.’
Donald Trump returned to a news conference on Wednesday to proclaim that nobody has been tougher on Russia than him
The president griped from the podium that nothing he does is ever tough enough — noting his remarks that a confrontation between U.S. backed forces and Russian military contractors in February left ‘many’ on the other side dead.
Trump was asked about the sanctions after confusion in his administration led the U.S. ambassador to claim Sunday that they were imminent.
A senior White House official hung her out to dry on Tuesday, claiming briefing that she had announced new sanctions on Russia because of ‘momentary confusion’.
Larry Kudlow made the claim amid mounting questions over whether Trump had personally halted the sanctions that would have punished Vladimir Putin’s government for its alliance with Syria.
He told reporters during a Palm Beach briefing that Nikki Haley ‘got ahead of the curve’ and added: ‘It might have been some momentary confusion about that.’
But later in the afternoon Fox News anchor Dana Perino read a statement from Haley that said, ‘With all due respect, I don’t get confused.’
Kudlow told a reporter for the New York Times shortly after that he apologized to Haley and admitted he was ‘totally wrong’ to insult her.
‘The policy was changed and she wasn’t told about it, so she was in a box,’ he said.
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Sunday Russia will be sanctioned over an alleged chemical attack in Syria last week
Kudlow told reporters during a Palm Beach briefing that Haley has ‘done a great job’ and is ‘very effective’ at the United Nations
Kudlow’s slap at Haley opened up new scrutiny of the internal flip-flop over how to handle the perennially politically toxic issue of Russia.
She had been adamant on Sunday that there would be new sanctions, only for the White House to say on Monday that they were not going ahead with them.
The Washington Post said Trump had put a stop to the plan for additional economic sanctions on Russia in a Monday report.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders flat-out denied that Trump had called off new punishing actions in a conversation with DailyMail.com on Tuesday afternoon in Florida, where President Trump was meeting with the Japanese prime minister.
She said that there never were finalized sanctions to announce, although a punishment for Russia is still under consideration.
Kudlow, head of the National Economic Council, had said minutes before that Haley was wrong and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would back him up.
‘He will tell you the same thing. They’re in charge of this,’ he said of Treasury. ‘We have had sanctions. Additional sanctions are under consideration but not implemented.’
A senior administration official who deals with the issue had told Reuters on Monday, ‘The ambassador got out ahead of things this time.’
The Post’s report said that Trump is unlikely to approve additional sanctions on Russia unless Moscow carries out a new cyber attack or some other provocation.
An official said Trump was concerned that immediately imposing more sanctions, on the heels of last weekend’s U.S.-led strike against Russian-backed Assad, would interfere with his efforts to negotiate agreements with Russian President Vladimir Putin on combating Islamic extremism, policing the internet and other issues.
The U.S., U.K. and France ordered strikes against Assad in the Damascus area on Friday
Sanders said in a statement prior to the Post’s report, ‘We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future.’
On Sunday morning, Haley confirmed the U.S. would sanction Russia in retaliation for the chemical weapons attack a week ago in Syria. She previewed the move without any prodding.
Haley said that Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, would hand down additional sanctions on Monday, if he had not already.
‘[T]hey will be going directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use,’ Haley said.
Her comments echoed a line in ‘White House talking points on Syrian airstrikes’ DailyMail.com received a day before.
‘We also intend to impose specific additional sanctions against Russia to respond to Moscow’s ongoing support for the Assad regime, which has enabled the regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people,’ the document that the Republican National Committee distributed said.
The Treasury Department would not confirm the sanctions on Sunday afternoon, telling DailyMail.com it ‘does not comment on prospective actions.’
And Sanders told reporters Monday, ‘We’re evaluating, but nothing to announce right now.’
Trump’s spokeswoman also pushed back on a boast from French President Emmanuel Macron that he had persuaded President Trump to keep U.S. troops in Syria.
Sanders said the United States’ policy has not changed, and it would still like to pull the 2,000 American soldiers deployed in Syria out as soon as feasible.
‘We’ve talked about this for a while, but our policy hasn’t changed. We still have troops on the ground,’ she said. ‘But the President wants to bring those people home, and that hasn’t shifted.’
At a National Security Council meeting Trump is said to have requested that the troops come home in the next six months. Publicly he’s said he wants it to happen ‘very soon,’ although he made those comments prior to coalition airstrikes last Friday on Syria.
‘We don’t have a timeframe on it,’ Sanders said. ‘It’s not based on an arbitrary timeline, but on defeating ISIS and also getting the Gulf partners in the region to step up and do more both militarily and financially.’
Sanders knocked down a different Washington Post report then that claimed Trump was angry that Treasury expelled 60 Russian diplomats the administration says were spies in response to an assassination attempt in March on a retired double agent living in Britain.
According to the Post, Trump only wanted to go as far as the United States’ European partners. Instead, the U.S. wound up taking the lead as Germany and France expelled just four Russian diplomats each.
‘The President is the one that gave the directive. The President has been clear that he’s going to be tough on Russia,’ she contended. ‘But at the same time, he’d still like to have a good relationship with them. But that’s going to be determined by whether or not Russia decides if they want to be a better actor in this process or not.’
Sanders said that has not been the case so far, and so Trump ‘is going to continue to be tough on them.’
‘And that’s why we’re continuing to evaluate a number of sanctions,’ she added.
On Monday, it was clear that a breakdown in communication on sanctions between the White House and the president’s political arm and the White House and Trump’s U.N. ambassador had occurred.
Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying that morning that that the Kremlin ‘will not delay in adopting legislation against U.S. sanctions’ if the Trump administration moves forward with the anticipated sanctions.
Trump promised last week that Russia would pay a ‘big price’ if it was found to have been complicit in Assad’s gas attack. The U.S. president said his treat threat extended to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Friday, in conjunction with the U.K. and France, Trump ordered targeted strikes against Assad’s forces.
He called out Putin by name in his address for failing to keep a promise in 2013 to eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile Syria.
‘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,’ Trump said. ‘Hopefully, someday we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran — but maybe not.’
Putin has not backed down from his support for Assad, despite international pressure to abandon the dictator accused of brutalizing his people. Russia says the U.S.-led strikes were a violation of international law.
The Russian president on Sunday that the strikes were an ‘act of aggression’ and that continued force against Assad would provoke ‘chaos’ in the international relations.
Haley meanwhile said that the U.S. and its allies could hit Assad’s regime with airstrikes again if the Syrian dictators deploys more chemical weapons.
‘The time for talk ended last night,’ Haley told an emergency meeting of the Security Council called by Russia. ‘We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will.’
Putin has not backed down on his support for dictator Assad despite international pressure. they are pictured in Moscow in 2015
Assad spoke on Sunday to a group of visiting Russian politicians. The dictator has said the airstrikes against Syria came with a campaign of ‘lies’ and misinformation in the U.N.
Haley warned, ‘When our president draws a red line, our president enforces a red line.’ She said, ‘The United States is locked and loaded.’
Assad seemed un-phased as he went about his business on Sunday, speaking to a group of visiting Russian politicians.
Some 70 people, including children, are said to have died when the Syrian regime unleashed chlorine gas and sarin, a nerve agent, on the rebel-held town of Douma a week ago from Saturday.
Both the Russian and Syrian government have denied involvement in the attack that preceded grusome photos and videos of children vomiting and gasping for air.
The United States and its partners dropped more than 100 bombs on three targets associated with the chemical weapons program in Syria in response to the posion attack early Saturday morning local time.
Trump delivered a national address as the raid was occurring. ‘We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,’ he said in the broadcast.
‘To Iran, and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?’ Trump implored.
He warned the Assad friends, ‘The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants, and murderous dictators.’
Both the Russian and Syrian government have denied involvement in the attack that left children vomiting and gasping for air, as shown in poignant photos
A Syrian solfier films the damage of the Syrian Scientific Research Center near Damascus