In the days leading up to the largest expulsion of Russian spies in US history, few inside or outside the Trump administration knew exactly what the president would do.
U.S. Intelligence officials trying to dismantle the Moscow espionage networks believed the president could oppose a recommendation to close the Russian consulate in Seattle.
Speaking to European leaders, Trump said the United States was not interested in driving spies out in response to the poisoning of a Russian spy, if other countries did not do the same.
But on Friday the president's national security team introduced him to three options, and Trump's final decision triggered an exodus of 60 Russian spies ̵
"We've received signals that expulsions are coming, but the numbers have surprised us," said an elderly European diplomat in Washington. "It was very high."
The uncertainty surrounding the president's decision reflected a phenomenon that stunned the United States' closest allies for almost a year, despite Trump's confident rhetoric toward Moscow and his unwillingness to stand firm To criticize the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Trump government has repeatedly taken aggressive action against Russia on the recommendation of the President's top advisers.
"This is in line with our policy towards Russia in the Trump government," said the Russian scholar John Herbst on the Atlantic Council. "If you just look at politics, this one has Government took steps that the Obama administration does not want, such as the delivery of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. The President's heart does not seem to lie in it, but for whatever reason, he is willing to go with his advisers. "
The announcement on Monday arose from an attack by US allies and intelligence agencies for a strong retaliatory reaction to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK Shortly after the attack, Fiona Hill, a senior director of the National Security Council, began political coordination meetings that culminated in a landmark Friday meeting, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, national security adviser HR McMaster, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, Among Other Top Officials
The three options presented to the President were described by a government official as "easy, moderate and heavy" who, like others, spoke about the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive discussions.  The "light" option demanded the expulsion of about 30 spies, while the Seattle Consulate remained intact, two US officials said. The "middle" option, which the president ultimately chose, drove 48 officials to the embassy in Washington and 12 to the U.N. Mission in New York and closed the Seattle Consulate.
U.S. Officials refused to formulate the "heavy" option to prevent the president from reacting to Moscow's retaliation, but one official noted that US counterintelligence knows well over 40 Russian spies in the United States the initial clean-up , On Thursday, the Kremlin announced the expulsion of 60 US officials.
During the meeting, the presidential aides roughly outlined the options and did not give a precise number of spies for the "medium" scenario, counting their heads as subordinates, an official said.
The official described the internal debate with boxing metaphors.
"If you go hard now and the Russians really fight back, we would be more limited in what we can do later," the official said. "With the middle option," the official said,
"They throw a solid punch but hold back a fist, and the president was persuaded by this option."
Historically, a similar purge has not occurred since 1986 when the Reagan administration launched 55 Russian officials. The George W. Bush Administration cleared 50 members in 2001 in response to the Robert Hanssen espionage case.
As soon as the White House's position became clear, US officials such as McMaster and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan began to appoint foreign leaders, with the number of commitments from other countries increasing from 10 last Friday to 16 on Monday morning rose on Thursday as 25
The expulsion of 60 US officials far surpasses the steps taken by other countries, a result that was not clear last week when Trump congratulated Putin on his re-election and despite his advisers' leadership  It remains unclear whether Moscow's purge will end diplomatic confusion or initiate another dispute between the two opponents.
On Thursday, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the US "reviewed the details of Russian action" and reserved the right to protest "against any Russian retaliation against the US".