Trump may rollback punishment for Russian election trickery

White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said President Donald Trump is “looking at” the future of U.S. sanctions on Russia as Air Force One headed to Sicily for the Group of 7 summit.

That group of wealthy nations was known as the G-8 before Russia got kicked out for its military annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian territory, in March 2014.

Now, Trump may return compounds taken from Russia after American intelligence agencies confirmed that the country’s spy network orchestrated interference in the presidential election.

Trump is returning to Russia two diplomatic compounds, one near New York City and the other on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, from which its officials were ejected in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Then-President Barack Obama said Dec. 29 that the compounds were being “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes,” and gave Russia 24 hours to vacate them.

Separately, Obama expelled from the United States what he said were 35 Russian “intelligence operatives.”

That same day, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak had a conversation with retired Army General Michael Flynn, who is suspected of having assured Vladimir Putin’s government that action taken by Obama would be short lived. If he did, that could violate the Logan Act.

Three independent or bipartisan investigations are looking into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with agents for the Trump campaign.

During the campaign and transition, Kislyak met and spoke with Michael Flynn, who was later appointed as Trump’s national security adviser, Trump’s White House adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others involved in the Republican’s operation.

Whether the confiscated properties and other Obama-era sanctions are reversed, Trump has already delivered key advantages to Russia by shaking faith in America’s commitment to NATO and other world alliances, essentially surrendering the role of the United States as leader of the free world.

Whether the increasing isolation of America in the world is a goal of Trump for the intended benefit of the Russians, or if members of his campaign team colluded with foreign schemes to upset the election, persistent attacks on the FBI and other US intelligence agencies look like a coverup.

Asking then-FBI Director James Comey to back off on the investigation into Flynn’s potential crimes, then firing him, appear to be clear cases of obstruction of justice by the president himself. Added to the likely perjury charges awaiting Trump’s attorney general (who told senators during his confirmation hearing that he did not meet with Russians, when in fact he did) there is mounting evidence to support both an impeachment proceeding and criminal charges.

Trump hired a criminal defense lawyer after just about four months in office. It would be a fair bet that he is not going to stay in this job, which the incredibly uninformed election winner is finding much harder than his last gig as a television showman, real estate heir and professional narcissist.

 


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