Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump at the G20 Summit in Hamburg. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
"In battle over Russia policy, Trump’s aides are winning" ... The WashPost reports on "a tension at the core of the Trump administration’s increasingly hard-nosed stance on Russia."
The bottom line: Trump, a "reluctant hawk," "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 reporters — Greg Jaffe, John Hudson and Phil Rucker — uncork this illustration:
- "Trump seemed distracted in March as his aides briefed him ... 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."
- Trump instructed: “We’ll match their numbers ... We’re not taking the lead. We’re matching.”
- "The next day, ... Trump erupted ... France and Germany were each expelling only four Russian officials."
- "His briefers tried to reassure him that the sum total of European expulsions was roughly the same as the U.S. ... 'I don’t care about the total!' [an] administration official recalled Trump screaming."
- "Growing angrier, Trump insisted that his aides had misled him."