WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley rejected a White House official’s suggestion Tuesday that she had bungled an announcement of new Russia sanctions out of “confusion.”
“With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” Haley told Fox News host Dana Perino. Perino read the quote on the air Tuesday as she discussed the fallout from Haley’s remarks about forthcoming sanctions that the White House later said were announced in error.
Haley’s office confirmed the quote but did not elaborate. Haley has been otherwise silent about the unusual dust-up over her remarks Sunday, in which she had described specific economic sanctions against Russia that she said were coming the following day.
The Washington Post reported Monday, citing several people familiar with the matter, that President Trump had become upset about public discussion of new sanctions after Haley spoke on CBS’s “Face The Nation.” Trump told aides that he was not ready to impose the new penalties, and the White House decided to characterize Haley’s remarks as an error, The Post reported.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow was asked about the episode during a briefing Tuesday about Trump’s meeting in Florida with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Is there confusion inside the administration about new Russia sanctions, a reporter asked Kudlow.
“No. I think the issue here is we have a set of sanctions, and additional sanctions are under consideration but not been determined,” Kudlow said.
Haley, he added, “got ahead of the curve. She’s done a great job. She’s a very effective ambassador. There might have been some momentary confusion about that.”
Kudlow added that “we have had sanctions. Additional sanctions are under consideration but not implemented, and that’s all.”
The Associated Press later reported, citing an administration official, that Kudlow had called Haley to apologize.
Despite White house compliments about Haley’s job performance, the episode marked an awkward dressing down of a prominent Cabinet member who speaks to Trump often.
Haley has great license to speak freely at the United Nations and frequently represents the administration on television, as she did Sunday to discuss the U.S. and allied airstrikes in Syria.
The new Russia sanctions were related to Russian companies judged to support the Syrian chemical weapons industry, Haley had said.
Trump on Monday put the brakes on that preliminary plan, which the Kremlin had denounced as “international economic raiding.”
Administration officials said the economic sanctions were under serious consideration, along with other measures that could be taken against Russia, but said Trump had not given final authorization to implement them. Administration officials said Monday it was unlikely Trump would approve any additional sanctions without another triggering event by Russia, describing the strategy as being in a holding pattern.
Some time after Haley’s comments on CBS, the Trump administration notified the Russian Embassy in Washington that the sanctions were not, in fact, coming, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said Monday.
The Trump team decided to publicly characterize Haley’s announcement as a misstatement. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Monday, “We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future.”
Asked Monday morning why it had taken 24 hours for the administration to walk back Haley’s comments, one White House official said only that there had been confusion internally about what the plan was.