By Greg Jaffe, John Hudson, Philip Rucker, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump seemed distracted in March as his aides briefed him at his Mar-a-Lago resort on the administration’s plan to expel 60 Russian diplomats and suspected spies.

The United States, they explained, would be ousting roughly the same number of Russians as its European allies – part of a coordinated move to punish Moscow for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil.

“We’ll match their numbers,” Trump instructed, according to a senior administration official. “We’re not taking the lead. We’re matching.”

The next day, when the expulsions were announced publicly, Trump erupted, officials said. To his shock and dismay, France and Germany were each expelling only four Russian officials – far fewer than the 60 his administration had decided on.

The president, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia.

His briefers tried to reassure him that the sum total of European expulsions was roughly the same as the U.S. number.

“I don’t care about the total!” the administration official recalled Trump screaming. The official, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Growing angrier, Trump insisted that his aides had misled him about the magnitude of the expulsions. “There were curse words,” the official said, “a lot of curse words.”

The incident reflects a tension at the core of the Trump administration’s increasingly hard-nosed stance on Russia: The president instinctually opposes many of the punitive measures pushed by his Cabinet that have crippled his ability to forge a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The past month, in particular, has marked a major turning point in the administration’s stance, …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Politics

      

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