Politics

After Saber Rattling, Trump More Measured on North Korea, Russia

Spicer contends president not changing stances, but 'entities' moving toward him

President Donald Trump, seen here with daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, appeared eager to reassure the world Thursday morning after talking tough on North Korea and Russia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images file photo)

Updated at 1:56 p.m. After a week of tough talk about North Korea and Russia, President Donald Trump on Thursday morning changed course on both issues. The shift followed an eyebrow-raising 48 hours during which the president also appeared to reverse several domestic policy stances.

Just 18 hours after declaring he is prepared to “go it alone” to deal with North Korea’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs, Trump struck a more measured tone in a morning tweet Thursday. And he indicated a growing confidence that Chinese President Xi Jinping will assist in addressing the North Korea challenge.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Trump said he told Xi during a summit last week that “the way you’re going to make a good trade deal is to help us with North Korea — otherwise, we’re just going to go it alone.”

Trump assured the country — and the world: “That will be all right, too.” Though he added that “going it alone means going it with lots of other nations,” his tone was — as it has been since he fired nearly five dozen Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base last week — hawkish.

That changed by the time he fired off his first Thursday tweet, in which he stated that Chinese help is coming and allies will be consulted.

On Wednesday, during a joint news conference with the NATO secretary general, Trump raised concerns when he declared U.S.-Russia relations to be at “an all-time low.”

“Right now, we’re not getting along with Russia at all,” he said. “This has built for a long period of time. But we’re going to see what happens. [Vladimir] Putin is the leader of Russia. Russia is a strong country. We’re a very, very strong country. We’re going to see how that all works out.”

[Analysis: Syria Dispute Allows Trump to Defriend Russia]

The remark was the latest one by Trump and his team since the Syrian strike that indicated an effort to distance the president and his associates, from Moscow amid federal and congressional probes into possible illicit ties between his campaign and the Kremlin.

But by Thursday morning, Trump appeared to be seeking to reassure the world that the countries with the largest nuclear arms stockpiles are not on a collision course.

In another tweet, he wrote that “things will work out fine” with Russia, promising a “lasting peace!”

Amid reported infighting between his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and chief strategist, Steve Bannon, Trump this week has used several media interviews to signal policy shifts away from Bannon’s populist views and toward Kushner’s more centrist and globalist worldview.

For instance, he indicated he will support reviving the Import-Export Bank, something he regularly promised to terminate as a candidate. Trump also suggested he will keep Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen, after harshly criticizing her on the campaign trail.

He also said he will no longer publicly call China a currency manipulator, a campaign-trail standard. And during Wednesday’s news conference, he said NATO is “no longer obsolete,” after previously panning the alliance and its members.

White House aides are busily downplaying the apparent policy shifts and reported internal White House feuds.

A senior administration official on Wednesday evening explained Trump’s willingness to alter course by saying that the president is “not doctrinal.” But that also means his views on any issue, as they’ve appeared to this week, will likely often change as circumstances do.

And on Thursday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the shifts are not Trump changing, but "it’s those entities evolving toward the president’s issues."

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