U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley fired back last week against a Trump administration official who said she was suffering from “momentary confusion” when she announced new sanctions against Russia were imminent, saying, “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
A striking intra-administration quarrel splayed out in public when National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters during a briefing in Florida that Haley “got ahead of the curve” when she said the U.S. would be slapping new sanctions on Russia on Monday in retaliation for the country’s support for Syria’s Assad government after its latest suspected chemical attack.
Kudlow said additional sanctions are under consideration but have yet to be implemented and said of Haley: “There might have been some momentary confusion about that.”
The feud appeared to quiet down after the economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, called the Indian American diplomat to apologize April 17 afternoon, a White House official said. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.
Haley had said, the U.S. would be slapping new sanctions on Russia April 16 in retaliation for the country’s support for Syria’s Assad government after its latest suspected chemical attack.
Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, said additional sanctions are under consideration but have yet to be implemented. Of Haley, he said, “There might have been some momentary confusion about that.” Haley then issued a terse statement to Fox News: “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
The White House had been struggling to explain Haley’s remarks amid reports that President Donald Trump put the brakes on the new sanctions. Several administration officials have disputed that characterization, saying Haley was out of the loop. Three senior administration officials said there were several attempts to get Haley to back off or clarify her comments, but she refused.
The officials said that, under the plan conceived last week, the sanctions would have been announced April 13, at the same time U.S., French, and British forces launched a missile strike on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons facilities. But the sanctions were not ready in time for Trump’s statement, so they were delayed.
The officials said a decision was then made to announce the sanctions as an answer to Russia’s response to the strikes. But that plan was re-evaluated and then put on hold over the weekend as it became clear that Russia’s response was less robust than anticipated. The officials were not authorized to discuss private administration deliberations publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
A National Security Council memorandum sent overnight April 13 said the new sanctions would be announced soon, but it did not specify a date. Over the next 36 hours, officials began to delve deeper into the proposed sanctions and decided to hold off on anything imminent, but Haley was unaware, the officials said.
On April 16, a new memo went out from the NSC saying that additional sanctions were under consideration, but no decision had been made. In the face of Haley’s refusal to clarify her April 15 remarks, draft language was sent to her suggesting again that she do so, the officials said.
Haley and her office ignored that, so the White House decided to push back, the officials said. The New York Times reports that Trump was annoyed with Haley for getting out in front of the policy, according to a White House official, and the president’s decision to reject sanctions left her hanging in public with her credibility on the line.
Haley has been one of the strongest critics in the administration of Russia’s behavior around the world, often speaking far more harshly than Trump would, but she has rarely been reined in publicly this way, reported the Times.
Trump has grown suspicious of her ambition, convinced that she had been angling for former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s position and increasingly wondering whether she wants his own job,” the Times noted April 17, adding, ”Republicans close to the White House whisper about the prospect of an alliance between Haley and Vice President Mike Pence, possibly to run as a ticket in 2020.”