Donald Trump will accept the recommendations of his advisers and expel dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the use of a nerve agent in the attempted assassination of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has already expelled two dozen Russian diplomats from Great Britain, and other nations may follow suit.
The U.S. considers the diplomats to be spies, carrying out intelligence activities under cover as embassy staff, one of the people said. Trump’s action would follow a similar move by May, who ordered 23 Russians that she said were spies to leave Britain over the attack on the former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter.
The advisers reached recommendations for a U.S. response to the U.K. attack at a National Security Council meeting on Wednesday and honed the proposals on Friday. Trump discussed the issue Friday with U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, FBI Director Chris Wray, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, outgoing National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and others, two people said.
All of the people familiar with the discussions asked not to be identified.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah told Bloomberg on Saturday, “The United States stands firmly with the United Kingdom in condemning Russia’s outrageous action. The president is always considering options to hold Russia accountable in response to its malign activities. We have no announcements at this time.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment.
This is just about the last move on the chessboard as far as trying to discipline Russia for its bad behavior. Sanctions aren’t working, and the sanctions against individuals aren’t effective either. Kicking Russian spies out of the country is really the final play for the U.S. After this, any attempt to hurt Russia will be greeted with laughter from Moscow.
Vladimir Putin is a very dangerous man and Trump, rightly I believe, is trying to keep the lines of communication open. The supreme irony of watching Democrats fall all over themselves in trying to outdo one another with anti-Russian rhetoric while their predecessors fell all over themselves trying to promote “detente” with the old Soviet Union is amusing. Democrats today are seeing Russians under the bed — just like Republicans did in the 1950s.
The more things change…