San Francisco Chronicle

Trump faces cred­i­bil­ity test at U.N.

- By Josh Le­d­er­man Josh Le­d­er­man is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

WASH­ING­TON — Af­ter threat­en­ing to cut off na­tions that re­buked him over Jerusalem, Pres­i­dent Trump faces a key ques­tion about his global cred­i­bil­ity: Will he fol­low through?

Most of the world de­fied the United States on Thurs­day at the United Na­tions, vot­ing for a res­o­lu­tion that de­clares Trump’s recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal to be “null and void.” Only a day ear­lier, Trump had linked the vote to fu­ture U.S. for­eign as­sis­tance, telling re­porters: “Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

Trump’s U.N. am­bas­sador, Nikki Ha­ley, upped the ante fur­ther in a speech just be­fore the vote. Not only was for­eign aid in the crosshairs, but U.S. fund­ing for the United Na­tions, too, she said. Ha­ley said the United States would “re­mem­ber this day” when it was sin­gled out for ex­er­cis­ing its sovereignt­y.

“We will re­mem­ber it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest con­tri­bu­tion to the United Na­tions,” Ha­ley said in the Gen­eral Assem­bly.

Yet the ul­ti­ma­tums from Ha­ley and Trump did not dis­suade al­most all the top re­cip­i­ents of the bil­lions of dol­lars Wash­ing­ton gives each year to help with se­cu­rity, de­vel­op­ment and other needs.

And within hours of the U.N. vote, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion started gin­gerly back­ing away from its fund­ing threats.

In Wash­ing­ton, State De­part­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert said cuts to coun­tries that op­posed the U.S. were not a fore­gone con­clu­sion.

“The pres­i­dent’s for­eign pol­icy team has been em­pow­ered to ex­plore var­i­ous op­tions go­ing for­ward with other na­tions,” Nauert said. “How­ever, no de­ci­sions have been made.”

On U.N. fund­ing, Ha­ley’s of­fice sug­gested the Jerusalem vote alone would not lead the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to cut off the global or­ga­ni­za­tion. Un­der Trump, the U.S. has been con­duct­ing a broader re­view of United Na­tions fund­ing and has al­ready cut money to some spe­cific U.N. agen­cies over abor­tion-re­lated con­cerns.

“We will use U.N. votes as one fac­tor in our for­eign re­la­tions,” Ha­ley’s of­fice, known as the U.S. Mis­sion to the United Na­tions, said in a state­ment. “It’s not go­ing to be the only fac­tor, or even nec­es­sar­ily the num­ber one fac­tor, but it will no longer be ig­nored.”

It was a rare mo­ment of soft-ped­al­ing by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, con­sid­er­ing the pres­i­dent’s aver­sion to back­ing down from a fight or fall­ing short on a prom­ise. To the con­trary, Trump has of­ten cred­ited him­self with restor­ing Amer­ica’s cred­i­bil­ity when it is­sues threats by fol­low­ing through when U.S. ad­ver­saries cross “red lines” that he has set.

In this case, though, there were signs that Trump in­tended his threat, de­liv­ered in a Cabi­net meet­ing Wed­nes­day, more as rhetoric than pol­icy. The warn­ing had ap­peared to catch the State De­part­ment and other agen­cies off-guard, lead­ing them to seek more de­tails from the White House’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on how to pro­ceed.

 ?? Mark Lenni­han / As­so­ci­ated Press ?? U.S. Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley said the United States would “re­mem­ber this day” when it was sin­gled out for ex­er­cis­ing its sovereignt­y.
Mark Lenni­han / As­so­ci­ated Press U.S. Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley said the United States would “re­mem­ber this day” when it was sin­gled out for ex­er­cis­ing its sovereignt­y.

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