Dear Commons Community,
Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, made it clear to White House officials yesterday that they have a problem communicating official foreign policy to senior administrators. In an interview on Fox News, she said: “I don’t get confused” implying it is the White House that gets confused. Here is a brief recap of the exchange courtesy of the New York Times:
“President Trump was watching television on Sunday when he saw Nikki R. Haley, his ambassador to the United Nations, announce that he would impose fresh sanctions on Russia. The president grew angry, according to an official informed about the moment. As far as he was concerned, he had decided no such thing.
It was not the first time Mr. Trump has yelled at the television over something he saw Ms. Haley saying. This time, however, the divergence has spilled into public in a remarkable display of discord that stems not just from competing views of Russia but from larger questions of political ambition, jealousy, resentment and loyalty.
The rift erupted into open conflict on Tuesday when a White House official blamed Ms. Haley’s statement about sanctions on “momentary confusion.” That prompted her to fire back, saying that she did not “get confused.” The public disagreement embarrassed Ms. Haley and reinforced questions about Mr. Trump’s foreign policy — and who speaks for his administration.
At the very least, the episode highlighted the crossed circuits over foreign policy in an administration with no secretary of state, an increasingly marginalized White House chief of staff and a national security adviser who has only been on the job for a week and has pushed out many of the senior national security officials in the White House but has yet to bring in his own team.
Since Mr. Trump fired Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson last month, Ms. Haley has been the administration’s leading foreign policy figure. And yet she was not kept in the loop on a major decision involving perhaps America’s most powerful adversary.
According to several officials, the White House did not inform Ms. Haley that it had changed course on sanctions, leaving her to hang out alone.
“It damages her credibility going forward and once again makes everyone, friend and foe alike, wonder that when the United States says something, approves something, calls for something, opposes something, is it for real?” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Should we wait to see what Trump does the next day?”
The clash was reminiscent of various occasions when Mr. Trump has directly undercut subordinates, as when Mr. Tillerson broached the idea of negotiations with North Korea and the president scolded him on Twitter not to waste his time. Many in Washington and at the United Nations were riveted by the sharp exchange on Tuesday between the White House and its senior international diplomat.
“She got ahead of the curve,” Larry Kudlow, the president’s national economics adviser, told reporters at a briefing in Florida before Mr. Trump welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan to his Mar-a-Lago estate. “She’s done a great job. She’s a very effective ambassador, but there might have been some momentary confusion about that.”
Ms. Haley took umbrage. A few hours later, she spoke with Dana Perino of Fox News, who quoted her response on air: “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
Mr. Kudlow then called Ms. Haley to apologize. “She was certainly not confused,” Mr. Kudlow told The New York Times by telephone. “I was wrong to say that — totally wrong.”
He added: “As it turns out, she was basically following what she thought was policy. The policy was changed and she wasn’t told about it, so she was in a box.”
It sounds confusing to me!