The White House’s infighting over Russia policy devolved into a very public feud after a Trump official accused Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley of “momentary confusion” for announcing sanctions against the Kremlin this weekend that the administration later walked back.
But Haley isn’t going to take the fall. “With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” she said in a statement, according to CNN.
Her firm response came after National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow blamed Haley for the snafu. Haley said Sunday the US would punish Russia with sanctions for its role in supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program. But the White House reversed itself Monday, reportedly because Trump wasn’t okay with the sanctions.
“She got ahead of the curve. She’s done a great job, she’s a very effective ambassador,” Kudlow said of Haley. “There might have been some momentary confusion about that.” He added that additional sanctions were “under consideration” but not implemented.
Haley, however, made it clear she wasn’t about to be scapegoated. Kudlow later said he apologized to Haley for the demeaning comments, telling the New York Times that he was “totally wrong” to call her confused. “As it turns out, she was basically following what she thought was policy,” Kudlow said. “The policy was changed, and she wasn’t told about it, so she was in a box.”
The back-and-forth over the sanctions did, however, make the entire Trump administration look confused and disorganized on the world stage, just days after the US, joined by the United Kingdom and France, bombed three Syrian regime targets in retaliation for an April 7 chemical attack attributed to Assad that killed more than 40 people, including children.
It’s still unclear how the substantial mix-up happened, but as Vox’s Zeeshan Aleem wrote, two things, at least are obvious: “The administration is once again botching the rollout of a fairly straightforward policy, and Trump is personally taking steps to ensure that he doesn’t anger Russian President Vladimir Putin.”