Soon, based on an announcement by the U.S. military, news outlets around the world reported that an American aircraft carrier was sailing toward North Korea from Singapore.
The decision to send the USS Carl Vinson was widely described as the Trump administration’s response at a pivotal moment to increasingly aggressive rhetoric from Pyongyang.
Now we know that things went a little differently.
As the weekend began and North Korea celebrated a national holiday with a defiant show of military force, the USS Carl Vinson was nowhere near the Korean Peninsula. It was in the Indian Ocean, thousands of miles away.
As our colleagues wrote, U.S. officials’ “nebulous — if not deliberately misleading” statements about the aircraft carrier underscore the tricky position Trump finds himself in when it comes to North Korea.
On the one hand, the Trump administration wants to demonstrate that the United States is willing to show force against Pyongyang. On the other, it’s clear the administration is also conscious that too much brinkmanship could be dangerous.
It’s not clear how North Korea will respond to the news about the USS Carl Vinson, which is apparently heading in its direction now.
As of this writing, foreign policy experts are still working to draw conclusions about the administration’s lack of clarity.
Was it calculated misdirection, or something less strategic? We hope to know more soon.
TRUMP, KEY AIDES APPEAR AT ODDS ON RUSSIA
Yesterday, we noted the difference between Trump’s apparent position on Turkey’s referendum and the State Department’s.
The same appears true when it comes to Russia, our colleague wrote.
As a reminder, Trump spent much of the campaign praising Russian President Vladimir Putin and urging a rapprochement between Washington and Moscow.
In recent weeks, however, his top deputies on national security have fiercely criticized Russia’s role in the Syrian civil war, its possible complicity in a chemical attack on Syrian civilians and its approach to world affairs.
Trump has passed on opportunities to reinforce the harder line pushed by officials such as U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. This contrasts sharply with his posture toward China, for example, which Trump repeatedly warned and criticized before softening his position.
SESSIONS FACES QUESTIONS OVER UNFILLED JOBS
By his own account, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to oversee an aggressive law enforcement apparatus at the Justice Department.
He already has outlined what that will look like: Sessions has urged his federal prosecutors across the country to crack down on illegal immigrants, violent criminals and drug traffickers. He wants to bring back the war on drugs, reconsider Obama-era police reforms and demonstrate an approach that is all-around tough on crime.
There’s just one problem. Sessions doesn’t have a single U.S. attorney in place to carry out this vision.
In case you missed it, Sessions asked dozens of Obama-era U.S. attorneys to resign last month. No one has been hired to fill their positions or those that were vacant, our colleague wrote.
Sessions has 93 unfilled U.S. attorney positions on his hands — a number that pales in comparison to the total sum of key government positions that remain vacant under Trump.
Sessions is also without leaders for the critical civil rights, federal crime and national security divisions at the Justice Department, our colleague wrote.
ANALYSIS: TWITTER A MINEFIELD OF HYPOCRISY FOR TRUMP
We all know how much Trump loves Twitter.
Since March 2009, when he created his @realDonaldTrump account, the microblogging service has become an almost daily obsession for Trump — a way to connect with supporters, air grievances and deliver political judgments in real time.
In fact, given Trump’s lack of political background, his Twitter account represents one of the most complete records of his views. That’s where he’s starting to get into trouble.
As our colleague wrote, Trump’s old tweets are turning into a “minefield of hypocrisy” for the new president. It turns out that many of the things Trump has done since becoming president, he criticized — often virulently — when President Barack Obama did the same.
Examples include his decision to launch missile strikes in Syria, avoid intelligence briefings, rack up large travel expenses and play frequent rounds of golf.
Follow the author: @eliseviebeck.