Rubio: Trump reversal on North Korea sanctions 'shouldn't have happened that way'

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE (R-Fla.) on Sunday suggested that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE's reversal of Treasury Department sanctions against North Korea that had not yet been made public could stoke international uncertainty over future punitive measures.

"Something happened between the time it was announced and the time that the president put out that statement," Rubio said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I don’t know the answer to be honest. I don’t know why he would do that or why it happened the way it did. It’s unusual. It’s never happened before."

Trump tweeted on Friday that he had "ordered the withdrawal" of additional sanctions announced by the Treasury Department. The tweet sparked mass confusion, as the administration had not announced sanctions against North Korea on the same day.  

“President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a brief statement.

A source familiar with the decision said that Trump was not rolling back the sanctions announced on Thursday against two Chinese shipping companies accused of helping North Korea evade existing sanctions, but instead was halting a new round of large-scale sanctions that had yet to be made public.

Rubio noted on Sunday that international sanctions typically go through an extensive inter-agency process before they can be approved, and was uncertain where the breakdown occurred.

"I don’t know how they issued this and then suddenly he changed his mind," the Florida Republican said. "I don’t know the rationale behind it. Maybe there’s a good reason. It certainly is not the way it’s normally done."

He added that the mishap was "not helpful," and suggested that in the future other countries will cite the incident to "ask for a double confirmation from the White House" about sanctions.

"I wish it hadn’t happened that way and it shouldn’t have happened that way," Rubio said.