White House hits pause on its plan to cut UN funding

January 27, 2017, 6:26pm

The Trump administration has hit pause on an executive order that would have substantially reduced America’s involvement in the United Nations, VICE News has learned.

The proposed order, entitled “Auditing and Reducing U.S. Funding of International Organizations,” was first reported by VICE News and the New York Times on Wednesday. It called for a fine-toothed examination of how the U.S. finances operations at the United Nations, including peacekeeping and development aid, and for cutting the remaining voluntary aspects of the budget by at least 40 percent.

But on Friday, multiple sources said that the order was not close to being signed — an indication perhaps of the somewhat haphazard approach to executive orders being taken by the new administration in its first week in office. It’s not clear if the order is permanently off the table, or if it’s simply being sent back for further review before being issued. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

In its conception, the draft order initially seemed to fit with a virtual wish-list of conservatives who have come to see the U.N. as a far-too-liberal institution, prone to forcing America to participate in — and pay for — actions that undermine key national interests. Among other things, the order would have blocked U.S. funding to any initiative that singled out the state of Israel, or to any international body that included the Palestinian Authority as a full member.

It was circulated this week along with a separate memo that would have put a freeze on any multilateral treaties or partnerships.

But the signals sent by the drafts seemed to be at odds with statements made by Nikki Haley, the incoming ambassador to the U.N., who spoke of “coalition building” during her confirmation hearing earlier this month, and told senators that while she opposed much of the U.N.’s recent actions, she would not support “slash and burn” cuts to its budget.

“I want to bring back faith in the U.N,” she said at the time. “I want to show that we can be a strong voice at the U.N. I want to show that we can make progress and have action at the U.N.”

Friday was Haley’s first official day at work.

Haley would not have been the first high-level administration appointee to be stunned by the content of a draft executive order being circulated by the Trump team. A congressional source told VICE News this week that another proposal — which would have reauthorized secret CIA prisons, or black sites, and the use of torture — had come as a surprise to both Secretary of State James Mattis and CIA Chief Mike Pompeo. The two men had expressed their shock to a senator, who later shared the story with colleagues, according to the source.

That order has not yet been signed, and the White House has denied that it was written by them.

Experts on the executive order drafting process say the Trump administration drafts have been unusually rough and plagued with errors. For example: The U.N. draft included a call to cut U.S. funding from a the International Criminal Court, which does not currently receive U.S. funding. And the one on torture reportedly referred to the “atrocities of September 11, 2011.”

The disposition of other rumored executive orders remains unclear. On Thursday, reports emerged that Trump might sign an order lifting sanctions on Russia, then told reporters on Friday that it was “very early to be talking about that.”

Not all of the executive order drafts that have circulated recently have been tucked away. Trump has authorized a dozen executive orders since taking office, including one, signed on Thursday, that called for the start of construction on a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

On Friday afternoon, he signed an order on live television imposing what he called “extreme vetting” on refugees who seek to enter the country. It’s not known yet what the exact text of the order contains.