Rus­sia sanc­tions still un­der con­sid­er­a­tion


WASH­ING­TON — The White House scram­bled Mon­day to walk back U.N. Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley’s week­end an­nounce­ment that new eco­nomic sanc­tions against Rus­sia are im­mi­nent, but stressed the penal­ties are still be­ing con­sid­ered.

Ha­ley cre­ated a firestorm Sun­day when she said the new sanc­tions would be im­posed by the Trea­sury Depart­ment on Mon­day, when, in fact, no such an­nounce­ment was planned, ac­cord­ing to two of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

In a state­ment, White House press sec­re­tary Sarah

Huck­abee San­ders tried to clar­ify the sit­u­a­tion, but her ex­pla­na­tion cre­ated more con­fu­sion and led to sug­ges­tions that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had per­son­ally in­ter­vened to halt the sanc­tions from tak­ing ef­fect Mon­day.

“We are con­sid­er­ing ad­di­tional sanc­tions on Rus­sia and a de­ci­sion will be made in the near fu­ture,” San­ders said in a state­ment.

The two of­fi­cials, who were not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss pri­vate ad­min­is­tra­tion de­lib­er­a­tions pub­licly and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said Ha­ley had mis­spo­ken when she said on CBS’ “Face the Na­tion” that Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin would an­nounce the sanc­tions Mon­day “if he hasn’t al­ready.” Ha­ley said the sanc­tions would tar­get those who are en­abling Syr­ian leader Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment to con­tinue us­ing chem­i­cal weapons.

The two of­fi­cials said the ad­min­is­tra­tion had no plans to an­nounce Syria-re­lated sanc­tions on Rus­sia this week, al­though they noted that two en­ti­ties were hit with such penal­ties last month in a largely over­looked por­tion of a sanc­tions pack­age that dealt mainly with Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and hack­ing.

Af­ter Ha­ley’s com­ments, some in the ad­min­is­tra­tion sug­gested the sanc­tions now be­ing con­sid­ered could be rolled out Mon­day. But oth­ers said it would be wiser and more ef­fec­tive to wait for a pe­riod longer than three days af­ter the U.S., Bri­tish and French in­fu­ri­ated Rus­sia with their mis­sile strikes on Syria on Fri­day.

The of­fi­cials could not say when the new sanc­tions would be an­nounced.

Mean­while, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump con­tin­ued to hail the mis­sile at­tack as per­fectly car­ried out.

Trump tweeted “Mis­sion Ac­com­plished” on Satur­day af­ter U.S., French and Bri­tish war­planes and ships launched more than 100 mis­siles nearly un­op­posed by Syr­ian air de­fenses. While he de­clared suc­cess, the Pen­tagon said the pum­mel­ing of three chem­i­cal-re­lated fa­cil­i­ties left enough oth­ers in­tact to en­able the As­sad gov­ern­ment to use banned weapons against civil­ians if it chooses.

Trump’s choice of words re­called a sim­i­lar claim as­so­ci­ated with Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush fol­low­ing the U.S.-led in­va­sion of Iraq. Bush ad­dressed sailors aboard a Navy ship in May 2003 along­side a “Mis­sion Ac­com­plished” ban­ner, just weeks be­fore it be­came ap­par­ent that Iraqis had or­ga­nized an in­sur­gency that would tie down U.S. forces for years.

Later Sun­day, Trump sent a let­ter to con­gres­sional lead­ers in­form­ing them in writ­ing of his de­ci­sion to or­der the strike. Un­der the War Pow­ers Res­o­lu­tion, the pres­i­dent must keep Congress in­formed of such ac­tions.

The night­time as­sault on Syria was care­fully lim­ited to min­i­mize civil­ian ca­su­al­ties and avoid di­rect con­flict with Rus­sia, but con­fu­sion arose over the ex­tent to which Wash­ing­ton warned Moscow it was com­ing. The Pen­tagon said it gave no ex­plicit warn­ing. The U.S. am­bas­sador in Moscow, Jon Hunts­man, said in a video, “Be­fore we took ac­tion, the United States com­mu­ni­cated with” Rus­sia to “re­duce the dan­ger of any Rus­sian or civil­ian ca­su­al­ties.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press

DE­STRUC­TION IN DOUMA: A man rides past de­struc­tion in the town of Douma, the site of a sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons at­tack, Mon­day near Da­m­as­cus, Syria. Faisal Mek­dad, Syria’s deputy for­eign min­is­ter, said on Mon­day that his coun­try is “fully ready” to...

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