The White House has pivoted away from imposing newly announced sanctions on Russia, senior administration officials told reporters Monday.
On board an Air Force One trip to Mar-a-Lago on Monday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders informed a press gaggle 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.”
Sanders asserted Russia’s seat at the diplomatic table is not guaranteed.
“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,” she said.
Sanders’ statement reveals an apparent break from statements United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley made just a day prior. On Sunday, Haley appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” to announce that the U.S. was imposing further sanctions on Russian companies due to the storage of Russian chemical weapons in Syria.
“You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down,” Haley said. “[Treasury] Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn’t already.”
Soon after Haley’s television appearance, President Donald Trump contacted the Russian embassy to signal that no such sanctions would be heading its way, a Russian Foreign Ministry official told The Washington Post. Other members of Trump’s press team continued to break with Haley’s statement, though it’s unclear if the appearances were a part of a larger coordinated effort to contradict the national security team.
“The administration is looking at sanctions on Russia, potentially some more sanctions, quite frankly, but we don’t have any announcement to make at this time,” Gidley said. “There is a chance that we do issue more sanctions. We just don’t have a decision yet from the administration.”
On Tuesday, however, newly minted White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow told reporters that Haley “got ahead of the curve” during her CBS appearance: “There might have been some momentary confusion about that.”
This waffling comes nearly a week after the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom conducted coordinated airstrikes on Syria. According to reports from Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, the nations targeted several locations associated with the development and storage of chemical weapons.
Both officials suggested the implementation of further airstrikes is entirely possible.
In late March, the Trump administration expelled 60 Russian diplomats and officials, and it shuttered a Kremlin embassy as part of continued efforts to discipline Russia.
Yet Haley seemed confident that further economic pressures were the correct move to discipline Russia.
“And so I think everyone is going to feel it at this point,” Haley said. “I think everyone knows that we sent a strong message, and our hope is that they listen to it.”
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated.