At a Friday press conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort in south Florida, President Donald Trump shared, for the first time, an explanation for the sudden reversal on a new set of sanctions against North Korea, saying that he decided that they weren’t “necessary.” According to a report in The Hill, the president suggested the abrupt about-face on new sanctions that had reportedly just been announced by his own Treasury Department was due to his close personal relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
“We understand each other,”Trump told reporters. “They are suffering greatly in North Korea, they’re having a hard time in North Korea, and I just didn’t think additional sanctions at this time were necessary.”
“Doesn’t mean I won’t put them on later,” he added.
However, the president’s Friday announcement only adds more confusion to the already puzzling story about the sanctions and their being lifted via presidential tweet in an apparent surprise to his own staff. It started when Trump tweeted last week that he had ordered the “withdrawal” of “large-scale sanctions” on North Korea that had been announced by the Treasury Department.
But the confusion came about because the department hadn’t ordered new sanctions on North Korea on the day in question. Rather, treasury ordered new sanctions against two Chinese shipping companies that are suspected of helping North Korea skirt sanctions that are already in place.
And while a White House-connected source put out the story that Trump was actually referring to North Korea sanctions that had not yet been put in place, or at least had not yet been announced to the public, a Bloomberg story reported that the president was initially tweeting about the sanctions on the pair of Chinese shipping companies. According to that report, White House officials convinced Trump to back off that idea, and then cooked up the North Korea sanctions cover story to account for the president’s tweet.
At the Mar-a-Lago press conference, Trump told reporters that he was “not at all” upset with officials at the Treasury Department over the confusion.
“They had the right to do that. I just decided that I would not let it happen,” Trump said.
Trump went on to compare the brouhaha over the on-again, off-again North Korea sanctions to the uproar over Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ initial effort to defund the Special Olympics, and the media and public shellacking she and the administration took regarding it.
“It’s a little bit of a similar situation with different parties, to put it mildly,” the president said.