Mnuchin on Haley's Russia sanctions comments: 'She wasn't left twisting in the wind'

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner Mnuchin5 things to know about Trump's escalating trade war with China On The Money: Trump signs first 2019 'minibus' spending package | Mueller probing transactions by Russian organizers of Trump Tower meeting | Stocks brush off trade fears On The Money: Cohen reportedly questioned over Trump dealings with Russia | Trump hails economy | Tells workers to 'start looking' if they want a better job | Internal poll shows tax law backfiring on GOP MORE on Thursday defended the Trump administration's backpedaling after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleySunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Trump previews UN message: Body 'has not lived up to' its potential Trump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' MORE incorrectly announced Russia would be subject to new sanctions for its role in a recent chemical attack in Syria.

Mnuchin told Fox Business Network that he and Haley were part of discussions last weekend to determine the administration’s strategy in Syria. He added that the White House hadn't left her "twisting in the wind" over the remarks, despite one official saying she had been "confused" before later apologizing over the characterization.

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On Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” Haley announced additional sanctions were coming against Russia for its reported role in the Syrian chemical attack and that Mnuchin would announce them as soon as Monday.

“I’m not going to go through the specifics, but we refined the strategy after Nikki made that announcement,” Mnuchin said. “Between Saturday and Sunday and Monday, we refined the strategy, and we will continue to refine the strategy."

He added that the U.S. is not afraid to use sanctions, "but we’re not going to broadcast to the world our exact thinking on this."

Fox Business anchor Liz Claman argued that Haley must have received an indication from the White House that it was OK to announce the sanctions, and that she was left “twisting in the wind” after the administration walked back her statement on Monday and Tuesday.

“She got ahead of the curve,” White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said on Tuesday. “She’s done a great job. She’s a very effective ambassador, but there might have been some momentary confusion about that.” 

Haley quickly hit back, saying, "With all due respect, I don't get confused."

Kudlow later apologized for the remarks, telling The New York Times, "She was certainly not confused. I was wrong to say that — totally wrong."

He added that Haley was "was basically following what she thought was policy" at the time of her interview.

“She wasn’t left twisting in the wind. This was a fluid situation. The decision changed,” Mnuchin said Thursday, adding that he was part of the choice to call off the sanctions.

“Nikki is a teriffic spokesperson for the administration,” Mnuchin added. “You shouldn’t read too much into this.”

The whiplash over new Russia sanctions fueled speculation in recent days that the White House was not entirely on the same page over Moscow.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE has faced criticism for his hesitation at times to forcefully criticize Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Wednesday, the president argued that nobody had been tougher on Russia than he had, and said his administration would levy additional sanctions on Russia “as soon as they very much deserve it."