Trump demurs on possibility of easing Iran sanctions

Trump demurs on possibility of easing Iran sanctions
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE demurred Wednesday when asked if he's considering easing sanctions on Iran ahead of a possible meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, following a report he had discussed the option.

"We’ll see what happens," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

"I think Iran has tremendous potential," he continued. "They’re proud of their people. And we’re not looking for regime change. We hope that we can make a deal, and if we can’t make a deal, that’s fine too. But I think they have to make a deal."

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Trump's comments came about an hour after Bloomberg reported that he mulled the idea during an Oval Office meeting on Monday. Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Democrats ramp up oversight efforts over 'opportunity zone' incentive White House to add two aides to lead impeachment messaging MORE was in favor of the move in an effort to rekindle talks with Iran, the news outlet reported, but it sparked pushback from former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Swalwell: Depositions provided evidence of an 'extortion scheme' Intelligence panel Democrat: 'I think we will end up calling' some witnesses on GOP list MORE.

Bolton, who holds hard-line views on Iran, submitted his resignation on Tuesday.

The White House declined to comment on the record about the report. The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The easing of sanctions would be a remarkable reversal for an administration that has made cracking down on Iran a point of focus. Trump withdrew from the Obama-era nuclear deal that provided Tehran with sanctions relief despite the urgings of international allies, and the administration has implemented scores of penalties on the Iranian oil sector, its mineral sector and its leaders.

Trump has in recent days shown an openness to a possible meeting with Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly later this month. But Iran has said it will not meet with U.S. leaders while sanctions are in place.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIran lays foundation for second nuclear plant: report Pompeo knocks Iran's treatment of UN nuclear inspector Reagan statue unveiled near site where he called for Gorbachev to 'tear down' Berlin Wall MORE and Mnuchin briefed reporters on Tuesday, where the Treasury secretary said they and the president are "completely aligned on our maximum pressure campaign."

"I think you know we've done more sanctions on Iran than anybody. And it's absolutely working," Mnuchin said.

But Pompeo, who has also been a vocal advocate of hammering Iran with sanctions to change its behavior, said he could see the president meeting with Rouhani at the United Nations.

Trump announced Tuesday in a tweet that he had ousted Bolton, who spent roughly 18 months as Trump's national security adviser. Bolton was a fierce Iran hawk and had previously advocated for regime change before joining the administration.