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Why did Trump back off from Russian sanctions?

I didn’t have much use for Nikki Haley as governor of South Carolina. The then-rising star of the Republican party made her hatred for trade unions plain. She redeemed herself somewhat when she advocated for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol after the murders of nine members of a historically black church in Charleston.

I was skeptical when Donald Trump selected her as United Nations ambassador, but she has turned out to be one of his few decent appointments. She has been eloquent on behalf of Israel (earning the commendation of all 100 members of the US Senate). And she has not hesitated to denounce in the strongest terms the indefensible behavior of the regimes in Russia, Iran and Syria.

So I’m sorry, although hardly surprised, to see that she is the latest victim of Trump’s, um, remarkable way of conducting himself as President of the United States.

President Trump on Monday put the brakes on a preliminary plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia, walking back a Sunday announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that the Kremlin had swiftly denounced as “international economic raiding.”

Preparations to punish Russia anew for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government over an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria caused consternation at the White House. Haley had said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that sanctions on Russian companies behind the equipment related to Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attack would be announced Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

But Trump conferred with his national security advisers later Sunday and told them he was upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them, according to several people familiar with the plan.

Administration officials said the economic sanctions were under serious consideration, along with other measures that could be taken against Russia, but said Trump had not given final authorization to implement them. Administration officials said Monday it was unlikely Trump would approve any additional sanctions without another triggering event by Russia, describing the strategy as being in a holding pattern.

Sometime after Haley’s comments on CBS, the Trump administration notified the Russian Embassy in Washington that the sanctions were not in fact coming, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said Monday.

Privately, another White House official said Haley got ahead of herself and made “an error that needs to be mopped up.”

But other administration officials expressed skepticism that Haley had merely misspoken. They said Haley is one of the most disciplined and cautious members of the Cabinet, especially when it comes to her public appearances. She regularly checks in with Trump personally to go over her planned statements before she sits for television interviews.

So maybe signals got crossed. Maybe Trump just decided for whatever reason to pull the rug from underneath Haley. In other words, pretty much par for the course in Trumplandia.

But after approving airstrikes against Syrian targets in response to the Assad regime’s latest chemical massacre, why would Trump hesitate to approve sanctions specifically aimed at Russian companies linked to Assad’s attack?

A genuine question. I have no idea.