The “light” option called for expelling roughly 30 spies while leaving the Seattle consulate intact, two U.S. officials said. The “medium” option, which the president ultimately chose, expelled 48 officials at the embassy in Washington and 12 at the U.N. mission in New York and shuttered the Seattle consulate.
U.S. officials declined to spell out the “heavy” option, to avoid previewing steps the president could take in response to Moscow’s retaliation, but one official noted that U.S. counterintelligence is aware of well over 40 Russian spies operating in the United States who were not included in the initial purge. On Thursday, the Kremlin announced the expulsion of 60 U.S. officials.
During the meeting, the president’s aides described the options to him in broad terms and did not give a precise number of spies for the “medium” scenario, leaving the head count to subordinates, one official said…
“If you go heavy now and the Russians really retaliate, we would be more limited in what we can do later,” the official said. “With the medium option,” the official said, “you’re throwing a solid punch but withholding a fist, and the president was persuaded by that option.”