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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Is Trump REALLY a Russian agent?

By Mark Sumner, Daily KOS  

Image result for russiagateThe “deep state,” composed of government employees who wage a surreptitious campaign against Trump, is a fantasy of the alt right.

But in the early days of the Trump regime, workers in the State Department did engage in a conflict to ward off a move so blatant it seems unreal.

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.

This was in the same period that Trump brought in James Comey to try and extract a pledge of loyalty, the same period Trump and Putin talked on the phone for the first time (so far as we know), the period that Trump dropped the Joint Chiefs from the National Security Council.

With Rex Tillerson still waiting approval, Trump was already pressing for Russian sanctions to be lifted.

In exchange for lifting the sanctions, Trump was to get … nothing.

Image may contain: text“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?”

Despite the knowledge that Russia has just directly interfered in the election, Trump was determined to hand Russia a big reward. Or maybe the word shouldn’t be “despite.” Maybe it should be “because.”

Trump gave every sign that, rather than punish Russia for interfering in the US election, he wanted to reward them for his win.

“… the administration was developing a plan to lift sanctions — and possibly arrange a summit between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin — as part of an effort to achieve a “grand bargain” with Moscow. “It would have been a win-win for Moscow,” said [former assistant secretary of state for human rights Tom Malinowski], who only days before he left office announced his own round of sanctions against senior Russian officials for human rights abuses under a law known as the Magnitsky Act.

Image may contain: textTrump wanted to flip those sanctions, return the Russian compounds in New York and Maryland, and lift the economic sanctions—a move that would gift Moscow hundreds of millions in oil revenue.

In exchange the Russians would not have to give back Crimea, not have to admit their invasion of Ukraine, and not have to admit any involvement in the US election.

Since this was the same State Department bureau that had helped develop the punitive measures in the first place, and actively pushed for them under the leadership of Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland, who had just resigned, the tasking order left staffers feeling “deeply uncomfortable,” said one source, who asked not to be identified.

Maybe that’s one definition of “deep state”—the experienced staff that’s deeply uncomfortable with Trump’s foolish actions.

The only thing that stopped Trump from lifting the sanctions immediately seems to be that employees of the State Department brought the effort to the attention of Congress. That effort led to action that made it more difficult to remove the sanctions without a public process.

The lobbying effort produced some immediate results: On Feb. 7, Cardin and Sen. Lindsay Graham introduced bipartisan legislation to bar the administration from granting sanctions relief without first submitting a proposal to do so for congressional review. “Russia has done nothing to be rewarded with sanctions relief,” Graham said in a statement at the time.

If not for the lobbying effort of a small group of State Department employees who saw what was happening and moved in the only way they know how, Donald Trump would have already lifted sanctions against Russia.