Plans to lift Russian sanctions continued to be refined even after the Trump administration was warned of Flynn’s illegal communications with the Kremlin

I’ve been in Kentucky these past few days, cooking and cleaning for my mother, who just had hip replacement surgery, so I’m a bit behind on the news. For the most part, it doesn’t look as though I missed much. Trump apparently alluded to a terrorist attack in Sweden that had never actually happened, and we learned that he and his family have already cost the American taxpayers more in one month than the Obamas had in a year, but, otherwise, things seem to have been relatively quiet… unless, of course, you factor in the Russian stuff.

The most interesting thing that I learned, reading over the news from the past three or four days, is that, just a week before the decision was made to fire Michael Flynn, a proposal was drafted for the lifting of sanctions imposed against Russia during the Obama administration for military actions undertaken by Putin in the Ukraine. Yes, apparently, even after Trump was made aware that his National Security Advisor had lied to the FBI about the extent of his communications with the Kremlin, people in Trump’s inner circle, like Michael D. Cohen (his personal lawyer) and Felix H. Sater (a business associate who has helped him assess deals in Russia), continued to draft plans to roll back sanctions.

Here, in case you weren’t paying attention back during the campaign, is something that I posted about these Russian sanctions a few months ago.

…As we witnessed during the campaign, Trump’s platform increasingly mirrored Putin’s over time. As you may recall, Trump suggested to the New York Times, for instance, that we may have to reduce our military presence in the world. He even went so far as to say that, if he were elected President, he may not automatically honor the security guarantees we have with other NATO nations. “He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back,” wrote the article’s authors. “For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are the most recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations ‘have fulfilled their obligations to us’.” [Putin hates NATO, and the fact that it’s expanding. He has said, the U.S. and Nato want to “sit on the throne in Europe alone”. He has also threatened to move Russian troops closer to Finland if they join NATO.]

Then, just before the Republican National Convention, the Republican party, as you may also recall, released their new platform for 2016. The New York Times called it “the most extreme Republican platform in memory.” Among other things, according to the Times, this new platform outlined positions “making no exceptions for rape or women’s health in cases of abortion; requiring the Bible to be taught in public high schools; selling coal as a ‘clean’ energy source; demanding a return of federal lands to the states; insisting that legislators use religion as a guide in lawmaking; appointing ‘family values’ judges; barring female soldiers from combat; and rejecting the need for stronger gun controls — despite the mass shootings afflicting the nation every week.” This apparently came to pass largely because Donald Trump, who would go on stage just a few days later to accept the party’s nomination for President, didn’t push back. With one notable exception, Trump and his team accepted everything that was suggested without debate. And that one exception, as you can probably guess, involved Russia.

According to Talking Points Memo, “The Trump Camp was totally indifferent to the platform. So party activists were able to write one of the most conservative platforms in history. Not with Trump’s backing but because he simply didn’t care. With one big exception: Trump’s team mobilized the nominee’s traditional mix of cajoling and strong-arming on one point: changing the party platform on assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations in eastern Ukraine.” Interesting, to say the least.

And that happened, as I said, just prior to the Republican National Convention, at a time when Paul Manafort was still Trumps campaign director, a position he would hold until August, when it came out in the press that Manafort may have illegally received $12.7 million in off-the-books funds from Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party in the Ukraine

So, even after Trump was told on January 26 that recordings existed of Michael Flynn, his appointed head of the National Security Council, engaged in illegal conversations with a Russian diplomat about the lifting of sanctions, Trump’s inner circle continued to push forward with their plans to aid the Kremlin. Trump’s administration was essentially told by the Department of Justice, “Your National Security Advisor lied to the FBI about these communications with the Kremlin in violation with the Logan Act,” and not only did Trump not fire Flynn, but his team continued to make plans. [Eventually, as we now know, members of the intelligence community went to the press with what they knew, thereby forcing Trump to take action against Flynn, and, it would appear, others have now picked up the baton, sharing details about these plans to lift sanctions.]

As for these sanctions against Russia, as you may recall, among other things, they’re presently keeping Putin and his friends at Exxon from pursuing an Arctic drilling initiative that could be worth as much as $500 billion… So, as you can see, there’s a big incentive for Putin to have them lifted. And some have even suggested that Trump might have a financial stake as well.

I’m not sure how it will go down, or when, but every day I become a little more confident that this administration will eventually drive itself from the White House. They just can’t seem to help themselves. It’s almost as if they’re being compelled to move forward in service of the Kremlin, without any consideration of what the ramifications might be. If anyone else were in the Oval Office right now, you’d think that they would try to distance themselves from the Russians. You’d think that they would say, “We need to investigate the role that Russian hacking had on the election.” You’d think they would say, “We need to take decisive action in response to these recent provocations on the part of Moscow.” But, instead, Trump continues to defend the Russians, and pursue the policy objectives of the Kremlin, arguing that what’s good for Russia is good for the United States. No one in their right mind would have kept Flynn onboard after being told that tapes existed of him lying to the FBI, and learning that, in the opinion of our intelligence community, he could be susceptible to a Russian blackmail campaign. No one. But yet Trump did. And, not only that, but, as we now know, his team continued to draft plans to lift Russian sanctions.

One day, my friends, if we survive this, there will be incredible books written about what we’re seeing unfold around us right now… books that will make All The President’s Men look like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

In related news, while 75% of those taking a Fox News poll today believe that “there should be a deeper investigation into Trump administration contacts with Russian officials”, Congressman Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says he has no intention of pursuing an investigation, which he said would be a political “witch hunt.”

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10 Comments

  1. Cassandra
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Each day, there seems to be some revelation that is even more shocking than the previous one … but now I’m beginning to wonder if that may be part of the problem.

    “Trump Fatigue” is a new term being used to describe how – even though many people were shocked and alarmed by early events – as DJT and his administration continue to act in an ever-increasingly bizarre fashion, this is now simply becoming the “new normal.”

    I’m beginning to wonder what it will actually take for a critical mass of people to understand the magnitude of what’s going on. I mean … we just enjoyed an epic Superbowl, WalMarts coast-to-coast are fully stocked with Cheeze Doodles, and Verizon is now offering an unlimited data plan … so really, what’s the problem?

  2. M
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    The simplest explanation is often the right one. In this case, I think it’s likely that the Russians are extorting Trump, forcing him to do their bidding. There’s no other reason why he would be staying the course in light of recent revelations. He kept Flynn on because Russia wanted him in that office. He kept working on lifting the sanctions because that’s what the Kremlin wanted. He didn’t push back when Moscow violated our missile treaty this past weekend, or when the Russian ship cruised down the east coast, because he couldn’t. Russia has him, and our intelligence community knows it.

  3. Max
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    I’d wager that he and his people stand to make a lot of money from whatever goes on in Russia, be it drilling in the Arctic, joining forces against the Middle East, shoot, maybe even going to war against each other. I have no idea what his real motivations are, but they are certainly dark and ugly and don’t take humanity into consideration. Didn’t Trump recently say that Russia needs to give back Crimea after they tested the ballistic missile and sent the sub down our east coast?

  4. Meta
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Nunes may not want an investigation, but there may be one.

    From MSNBC:

    On Friday afternoon, FBI Director James Comey delivered a classified, hour-long briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Russia scandal, and soon after, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent “formal requests to more than a dozen organizations, agencies and individuals, asking them to preserve all materials related to the committee’s investigation” into the controversy.

    We don’t know much about how the briefing went – committee members were tight-lipped following Comey’s presentation – though Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted late Friday that he’s “now very confident” that the committee will conduct “thorough bipartisan investigation” into Russia’s “interference and influence.”

    Reading between the lines, this makes it sound as if the Republican-led panel is trying to knock down the idea that a special select committee is necessary to investigate the scandal without political interference.

    A day later, Reuters reported that the FBI is pursuing “at least three separate probes” related to Russian intervention in American politics, “according to five current and former government officials with direct knowledge of the situation.” Two of three, according to the report, relate to alleged cyber-crimes, while the third is the ongoing counter-espionage probe.

    Read more:
    http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/trumps-russia-scandal-takes-unexpected-turn

  5. City Watch
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I believe there are personal, political and business connections between Trump and Russia. I want Trump to make his tax returns public. This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue, it is an issue of discovery and fairness. I want to know what dealings he and his businesses and his family have with which foreign countries, where they are keeping their money, especially if it is in offshore accounts, so we can tell whether his ideas about foreign policy reflect his business interests. Is being President just another way to enhance the Trump empire? Can he be “blackmailed” as you have said before Mark? We should ALL know this. Also, I want to know that he is putting some money into our shared US government for all the money our shared government is paying out to protect him and his family, as well as for all their traveling (some of it on personal business) that we are also paying for!!! It is only fair to we the people for Trump to be honest and transparent about his finances.

  6. Meta
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Mic drop in Sweden.

    “Florida region where Donald Trump held rally had 50 per cent more murders than whole of Sweden”

    There were 50 per cent more murders last year in the part of Florida where Donald Trump spoke at a rally over the weekend, than in all of Sweden, according to former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt.

    The politician weighed in on the debate, after Mr Trump told crowds in Melbourne, near Orlando, that Sweden’s policy of accepting large numbers of migrants was not working and suggested it had led to a spike in violent crime in the country.

    Around 100 people are murdered in Sweden each year, and the level has remained relatively stable over the last three decades despite a population increase. Meanwhile, Orange County, Florida, had 167 murders in 2016.

    Read more:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-orange-county-florida-sweden-region-where-held-rally-had-50-per-cent-more-murders-a7590601.html

  7. stupid hick
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    50 percent more understates the difference. It’s much worse. Sweden is home to 8x more people than Orange County. Of course Trump’s defenders in the comments section miss the point and blame minorities and liberals.

  8. Citywatch
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    Back in 2008, Donald Trump Jr. told a real estate conference that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

  9. Dave
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Last week, the “Presidential Trade Transparency Act of 2017” bill was introduced. It would require the President to disclose any income, assets, and liabilities he/ she has with a country before engaging in trade negotiations. Not perfect, but a workaround until the tax returns are released.

    https://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/PTTA%20Summary.pdf

    Also, talk in the news about the VP’s ability to use the 25th amendment ( with the support of 8 cabinet members and support of Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan ) to become the “active president” is increasing. If T protests the move, it then goes to the house and senate and a 2/3 vote gets him out for good. It could happen fast. And it does not seem unreasonable that it could happen. My guess is that many republicans would prefer Pence at this point…. and the democrats.

    The other option is the slow process of linking all the russian incidents together to prove intent and then move on to a potentially long process of impeachment…all while T still has access to the button.

  10. Rat
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    BREAKING: GOP @RepKevinYoder joins growing list of Republicans to call for #TrumpRussia investigation. http://goo.gl/Z2tlww via @KCStar

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  1. […] fired for having lied about talking to. This is the guy who many think coordinated the whole “we’ll hack the election if you lift the sanctions” deal at the heart of this whole fucking thing. This would be like if Obama, at the height of […]

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