Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, responded to reports of conflict with the White House over Russia sanctions, saying she doesn’t “get confused” as a top administration official called her out for announcing unconfirmed information.
After U.S.-led strikes were ordered on Syria in response to chemical attacks on rebels in the region, Haley announced that new sanctions were coming down the pipe for Russian companies involved in the Syrian chemical weapons program.
But Haley’s premature announcement reportedly angered President Donald Trump, who hadn’t decided on the sanctions.
National Economic Council chairman Larry Kudlow attempted to walk back Haley’s claims, saying she was “ahead of the curve.”
“She’s done a great job, she’s a very effective ambassador,” Kudlow said on Tuesday. “There might have been some momentary confusion about that. But if you talk with Steve Mnuchin at Treasury and so forth, he will tell you the same thing – they’re in charge of this – we have had sanctions.
“Additional sanctions are under consideration but not implemented,” he added.
But according to Fox News’ Dana Perino who reported a conversation she had with Haley on Tuesday afternoon, Haley pushed back against Kudlow’s remarks.
“With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” Haley said.
Haley’s response seems to expose a rift in White House foreign policy as a bare-bones staff gets acquainted with a new national security adviser and a yet-to-be-confirmed secretary of state.
Kudlow later apologized for suggesting Haley was confused, according to the New York Times.
“She was certainly not confused,” Kudlow said. “I was wrong to say that – totally wrong.”
“As it turns out, she was basically following what she thought was policy,” he added. “The policy was changed and she wasn’t told about it, so she was in a box.”
But as Haley steps up a crucial foreign policy figure in the absence of a secretary of state and as tensions with Russia are ratcheted up, any lack of communication is a big deal, to say the least.
“It damages her credibility going forward and once again makes everyone, friend and foe alike, wonder that when the United States says something, approves something, calls for something, opposes something, is it for real?” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, according to the Times. “Should we wait to see what Trump does the next day?”
Haley’s hawkish stance on Russia has put her at odds with the White House before, but in the wake of strikes against Syria and threats of Russian retaliation, it’s more important than ever for U.S. foreign policy officials to be on the same page.