Report: Trump Officials Lobbied State Dept to Propose Lifting Russian Sanctions

Trump officials reportedly started the new administration with a ferocious push for State Department staffers to propose lifting Russian sanctions as part of a broader effort to improve bilateral relations with the country, according to Yahoo! News.

State Department staffers opposed that effort and seemed to successfully lobby legislators to propose legislation preventing Trump from rescinding those sanctions.

Former National Security Advisor (NSA) Michael Flynn’s resignation, however, made legislation unnecessary because, as Yahoo! News indicates, the president might have looked bad removing Russian sanctions after his former NSA hid conversations with a Russian official about those measures.

Part of Trump aides’ plan for improving relations with Russia included returning diplomatic compounds that Trump recently took steps toward returning.

Yahoo! News had more details on how the initial effort unfolded:

Just days after President Trump took office, officials who had moved into the secretary of state’s seventh-floor office sent a “tasking” order to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs to develop a menu of options to improve relations with Russia as part of a deal in exchange for Russian cooperation in the war against the Islamic State in Syria, according to two former officials.

Those options were to include sanctions relief as well as other steps that were a high priority for Moscow, including the return of two diplomatic compounds — one on Long Island and the other on Maryland’s Eastern Shore — that were shut by President Obama on Dec. 29 on the grounds that they were being used for espionage purposes. (The return of the compounds is again being actively considered by the administration, according to a Washington Post report Thursday.)

The White House reportedly said it initiated a broader review that included countries other than Russia, as well. “We’ve been reviewing all the sanctions — and this is not exclusive to Russia,” an official told Yahoo! News.

“All the sanctions regimes have mechanisms built in to alleviate them. It’s been our hope that the Russians would take advantage of that.”  The official indicated that sanctions relief would require a concession on Russia’s end — specifically, ceasing the Ukrainian conflict.

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