- The White House reportedly tried to cover for President Donald Trump last week when he attempted to roll back new Treasury Department sanctions against North Korea and was blocked by his own administration.
- Trump announced the sanctions would not be implemented in a tweet, but officials quietly scrambled to clarify that they were still in place while claiming the president was referencing future sanctions.
- The Trump administration is facing criticism from all sides over its inconsistent North Korea policy after the February summit between Kim and Trump failed to make any progress.
The White House reportedly sought to provide President Donald Trump with a “cover story” last Friday after he appeared to overturn North Korea-related sanctions his Treasury Department ordered a day before, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.
The situation seemed to confuse the Trump administration and left experts baffled as to what was going on.
Here’s how this bizarre situation unfolded:
- Last Thursday, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions against Chinese shipping companies allegedly helping North Korea evade economic sanctions.
- National Security Adviser John Bolton in a tweet the same day cited the sanctions as “important actions.”
- Trump on Friday tweeted, “It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea. I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!”
- As the Trump administration faced questions on the president’s tweet, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary.”
- The contradictory messages prompted a flurry of confusion in Washington and beyond.
- Administration officials then said the sanctions announced Thursday hadn’t been rolled back and Trump, in his tweet, was referring to future sanctions, despite the president specifically citing sanctions “announced today.”
- According to five people familiar with the matter, Trump had “intended to remove penalties Treasury had announced the day before,” Bloomberg reported.
- “The people asked not to be identified in order to candidly describe last week’s events and the administration’s attempt to provide a cover story for the president,” Bloomberg said, adding that the White House and Treasury did not respond to a request for comment.
All of this comes on the heels of Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on denuclearization, which took place in Hanoi, Vietnam, last month. The summit was largely seen as a failure, with Trump walking away without a deal and Kim’s regime later threatening to resume missile tests.
The Trump administration has over the past few days faced criticism from all sides over its handling of North Korea policy, including sanctions, following the summit.
“We now have sanctions that are being waived by the president after Treasury, by law, issues them,” Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado said at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday.
Gardner added, “This body ought to be growing more and more frustrated with the U.S. continuing to change our policy while Kim Jong Un sits back and continues to develop fissile material, nuclear weapons without doing a doggone thing except watch the United States change its negotiating position.”
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