The Trump administration has no immediate plans to impose more sanctions on Russia, two people familiar with the matter said, after conflicting remarks by U.S. officials in recent days stirred tensions within the White House and between the two nations.
President Donald Trump hasn’t approved any additional punitive moves against Russia and his aides haven’t formally recommended any, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Trump is prepared to impose further penalties in the future, but not now, they added.
The conflicting signals began Sunday, when Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said the administration would impose more sanctions on Russia and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn’t already.” The White House tried to walk back the claim, setting off a public spat between Haley and Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser.
Kudlow said Haley had “some momentary confusion” about the sanctions. He later apologized to Haley after she released a barbed response to Fox News, saying “with all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
Nevertheless, Haley’s assertion about imminent sanctions was off-base, according to the people.
A Russian Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday that the Trump administration notified Russia’s embassy in Washington that it had no plans to impose further sanctions. When official Russian news agencies reported the U.S. notification Wednesday, the ruble flipped from being the worst-performing emerging market currency to the best in the first hour of trading in Moscow.
The miscommunication came at a sensitive moment for the two nations --less than two days after the U.S. launched a missile attack on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which Russian President Vladimir Putin supports, in response to an apparent chemical weapons attack on his own citizens. At the same time, the Trump administration continues to be dogged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
--With assistance from Henry Meyer