Screenshot/The White House
Donald Trump’s threat of “fire and fury” against North Korea has provoked a torrent of reaction, most of it not good. After copious reporting that Trump was winging it when he issued the threat, the White House appears to be reacting to that narrative.
After nearly 24 hours and a press briefing at which Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway refused to comment, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders finally delivered the closest thing to a clarification that she could.
In a carefully worded statement to reporters, Sanders appeared to both confirm that Trump improvised his statement and imply it was kind of approved by advisers without actually saying that (pool report via email from The White House):
Sent: Wednesday, August 9, 2017 1:50 PM
Subject: travel pool 1b
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in the Marriot Bridgewater lobby, just gave the pool an in-person statement on the origins of President Trump’s North Korea statement:
“General Kelly and others on the NSC team were well aware of the tone of the statement of the president prior to delivery. The words were his own. The tone and strength of the message were discussed beforehand. They [Gen. Kelly and others] were clear the president was going to respond to North Korea’s threats following the sanctions with a strong message in no uncertain terms.”
Once again, note the carefully passive language that advisers were “aware of the tone” Trump would take and that the message was “discussed,” not approved or recommended, beforehand.
Sanders’s statement represents a clear change from this morning’s pool report, which didn’t appear to imply any discussion of the statement:
Lindsey Walters, the White House spokeswoman, came down to briefly speak with reporters.
“We’ve received several questions on who the president spoke to yesterday before his notes. The president and chief of staff Kelly are and have been in constant contact with members of the NSC team… And additionally the president did receive his daily intelligence briefing this morning.”
Although the statement itself provides very little in the way of actual information, it is a definite sign that the Trump administration is well aware of the criticism surrounding Trump’s threat, and their scattershot efforts to react to it afterward.