Almost immediately upon taking office, Donald Trump began working quickly and quietly to lift the sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
According to new reporting from Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff, the White House asked the State Department to come up with ways to ease the sanctions within the first several weeks of Trump’s presidency.
More from the report:
In the early weeks of the Trump administration, former Obama administration officials and State Department staffers fought an intense, behind-the-scenes battle to head off efforts by incoming officials to normalize relations with Russia, according to multiple sources familiar with the events.
Unknown to the public at the time, top Trump administration officials, almost as soon as they took office, tasked State Department staffers with developing proposals for the lifting of economic sanctions, the return of diplomatic compounds and other steps to relieve tensions with Moscow.
The report also notes that members of the State Department were “alarmed” by the request and quickly began to urge members of Congress to take legislative action that would block any effort by the new administration to lift the punishments.
More from the report:
These efforts to relax or remove punitive measures imposed by President Obama in retaliation for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 election alarmed some State Department officials, who immediately began lobbying congressional leaders to quickly pass legislation to block the move, the sources said.
“There was serious consideration by the White House to unilaterally rescind the sanctions,” said Dan Fried, a veteran State Department official who served as chief U.S. coordinator for sanctions policy until he retired in late February. He said in the first few weeks of the administration, he received several “panicky” calls from U.S. government officials who told him they had been directed to develop a sanctions-lifting package and imploring him, “Please, my God, can’t you stop this?”
Fried said he grew so concerned that he contacted Capitol Hill allies — including Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the ranking minority member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — to urge them to move quickly to pass legislation that would “codify” the sanctions in place, making it difficult for President Trump to remove them.
The Trump administration was essentially willing to lift sanctions on Russia in return for absolutely nothing – not only poor and unprecedented policy, but also a troubling move given what we now know about this administration’s ties to the Russians.
The reporting from Yahoo News is also the most in-depth look to date at just how adamant the administration was at essentially rewarding Moscow, despite the fact that they had just interfered in an election only months earlier.
The stunning news comes as the investigation into the administration’s ties to Russia creeps closer and closer to the Oval Office – with associates all around the president, and even Trump himself, now under investigation for a slew of secret meetings and dealing with Russia, not to mention efforts by the president to obstruct an active investigation.
The White House will likely continue to dismiss this as a witch hunt, but it’s becoming abundantly clear they have something to hide.