But at a rally in Pennsylvania hours later, Mr. Trump dismissed the particular counsel’s investigation of Russian interference as a “hoax” that was impeding his efforts to nurture a constructive relationship with the Russian president. “I acquired alongside nice with Putin,” he mentioned of their latest assembly in Helsinki, Finland. As for NATO’s members, he mentioned, they were delinquent and in want of a stern lecture about paying their payments.
“It was vital that the nationwide safety crew spoke en masse and forcefully on Russian aggression in direction of our elections,” mentioned R. Nicholas Burns, a former ambassador to NATO who served beneath Invoice Clinton and George W. Bush. “However Putin is not going to be deterred on this problem, or Crimea, or the nerve agent assault till he hears Trump say it forcefully and convincingly.”
“Till then,” Mr. Burns mentioned, “he’ll view Trump as weak.”
Administration officers mentioned Mr. Trump directed his nationwide safety crew to carry the briefing on Thursday to underline how severely he takes the specter of election interference. They mentioned his softer language — whether or not about Russia or North Korea — merely displays his conviction that he ought to domesticate a optimistic relationship with the leaders of these international locations.
Requested why Mr. Trump not often, if ever, sounds the alarm about Russia’s election meddling, the nationwide safety adviser, John R. Bolton, instructed reporters: “The president has made it abundantly clear to anyone who has duty on this space that he cares deeply about it and that he expects them to do their jobs to their fullest skill.”
The dissonance between Mr. Trump and his employees extends to international locations like Iran, with which neither he nor his aides are looking for a heat relationship. The president’s declaration that he would meet Iran’s leaders “anytime they need” — with out preconditions — got here simply as different officers, together with Mr. Pompeo, had been hardening their language towards the nation.
Mr. Pompeo shortly listed three preconditions for engagement: that the Iranians “reveal a dedication to make basic adjustments in how they deal with their very own individuals, cut back their malign habits” and “enter right into a nuclear settlement that really prevents proliferation.”
For aides like Mr. Pompeo or Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, there may very well be one more reason for the disconnect with Mr. Trump: they harbor their very own long-term political ambitions and don’t wish to run afoul of conventional Republican constituencies.