(Writer’s note: the #TrumpRussia shit is hitting the fan and speculation abounds that Cletus will soon move to fire Rod Rosenstein. Comey’s new book is causing a meltdown in the white house, too. So call this post counter-programming—yet another potential area of investigation for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.)
For everything there’s always a first time.
Never in the 2.5 years I’ve been writing CrankyYank have I embedded a clip from Fox News. Above you’ll see a rare FNC Trump critic say the lack of response to Russian election meddling in the U.S. is “troubling.” (Since that clip aired in Dec. 2016 Fox has morphed/devolved into cheerleading state-run “Dear Leader” TV.)
This post follows a simple premise. Why—after Putin and Russia have committed many horrible offenses—did it take Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians for Trump to issue his own sanctions list?
Taken verbatim from Mueller’s list of indictments, U.S. Department of Treasury’s sanctioned oligarchs list is available here. Which of course begs the question, Was this a case of cut-and-paste foreign policy or something else?
Most media reports I’ve seen and read only describe this as laziness rather than purposeful or calculating.
Following a tip from a confidential source who urged me to look at this, here is a short—and of course not exhaustive—primer of Russia’s actions and what our country’s official responses were.
Dateline: July 2017—Congress overwhelmingly passes a bill sanctioning Russia for its 2016 election meddling.
Trump response: I had tea with Vlad and he denied meddling
Dateline: July 2017—Russia expels 755 U.S. diplomats in retaliation for the U.S. law mandating sanctions.
Trump administration* response: thank you for unburdening us with payroll
Dateline: October 2017—Trump misses the deadline to implement Russia sanctions passed with a veto-proof bipartisan majority.
Trump administration* official response: whatever Mary we’ll get to it
Dateline: January 2018—Trump administration* cut-and-pastes mandated Russian oligarchs list from Forbes magazine.
Administration response: oh yeah we totally did that
Dateline: March 2018—Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia were poisoned in what authorities call an assassination attempt by Russia on foreign soil
Trump response, by phone: hey Vlad big congrats on the election win
Which brings us back to Mueller’s indictments this month, as well as the official response from Treasury. Here’s how Buzzfeed described Trump Treasury’s oligarch sanctions:
The sanctions appeared to support Mueller’s indictments, which Trump sought to temper at the time by saying that it showed “no collusion” between his campaign and Russians. He even criticized his national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, for telling a conference in Germany that Mueller’s indictment provided “incontrovertible” evidence of Russian interference.
An identical sanctions list strikes both my source and me as a convenient coincidence. This would barely rank in the top 10 of Donald Trump’s most obstruction-of-justice-y offenses, but it’s still worth wondering: Was this Trump’s way of “supporting Mueller” or a way of blocking him from interviewing key people in the Trump-Russia scandal?
I’ll add more to this post tomorrow with a deeper-dive into which of these oligarchs matter most. 🔵
Will Pollock is an Atlanta-based freelance multimedia journalist focusing on pop-culture, politics, journalism & media, retail, real estate, travel, politics, and human interest.
He is the author of two books (Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way. Sign up for the mailing list, follow on Twitter—and check out the book links below. Make sure to comment often—cranky does love company after all.
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