What Happened: Contrary to an earlier White House explanation of a tweet issued by U.S. President Donald Trump last week withdrawing sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department, his message had indeed been intended to reverse the penalties against two Chinese shipping companies accused of helping North Korea evade sanctions, Bloomberg News reported March 26, citing an anonymous source. Bloomberg's source alleges the White House intentionally leaked a misleading report that Trump was instead planning to cancel other upcoming sanctions, in an effort to buy advisers time to persuade the president not to reverse the new Treasury measures.
Why It Matters: Should the leaked claims be verified, it would point to even more divisions within the White House over the trajectory of the U.S.-North Korea outreach — with Trump opting for a more conciliatory path toward denuclearization and some of his advisers pushing for a stronger approach.
Background: On March 22, Trump unexpectedly announced via Twitter that he had ordered the reversal of new sanctions on North Korea — leading to confusion as to which sanctions he was referring to. Shortly thereafter, White House sources said that the president intended to cancel unpublicized measures slated to be announced by the Treasury Department.
- The U.S. Supersizes Its Sanctions (Dec. 6, 2018)