Donald Trump Placing Russia’s Interests Above US Interests

Donald Trump’s Public Statements on Sanctions

On July 11, 2015, during a Q&A session following a speech at FreedomFest in Las Vegas, Donald Trump took a question from a Russian audience member:

Q: “…Do you want to continue the politics of sanctions that are damaging to both economies?…”

A: “…I know Putin, and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin. Putin has no respect for President Obama. It’s a big problem. Big problem… I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin. Okay? And I mean where we have the strength. I don’t think you need the sanctions; I think that we would get along very, very well. I really believe that.“ Source

On July 20, 2016, in a speech at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump stated that a Trump administration would not honor US commitments to aid NATO allies that came under attack from Russia unless he was satisfied that those allies had sufficiently improved their contributions to NATO. He also expressed his desire to scrap international trade agreements, to pull back US troops deployed around the world, and to end the US role as international peacekeeper, reducing any international involvement solely to actions that would economically benefit the US. Using terms essentially the same as those often used by Putin, Trump stated, “When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don’t think we are a very good messenger.” Source

Aside: according to Trump, the key takeaway from the 2016 Republican National Convention was “The fact that I’m very well liked.”

On July 27, 2016, Donald Trump told a news conference he would consider recognizing Crimea as Russian territory and lifting US sanctions on Russia. Source

Donald Trump Campaign/Administration Acting in Russia’s Interests re: Sanctions

In July 2016, during the Republican National Convention, members of the Trump campaign orchestrated a change to the Republican Party platform. Previously, the Party had pledged to provide Ukraine aid including “lethal defensive weapons” in response to Russia’s ongoing activities there. However, the Trump Campaign successfully altered the platform to remove any mention of weapons or aid, and only to suggest that “The Ukrainian people deserve our admiration and support in their struggle.” Source Trump campaign aide JD Gordon has stated that he advocated for Republican platform changes to soften action against Russia in response to their Ukraine intervention. Gordon said he did so believing it to match Trump’s views, having consulted about the matter with others in the Trump campaign before the convention. Source

Almost immediately after taking office, in January 2017, Trump administration officials pressed State Department staffers to develop plans to remove sanctions against Russia. The State Dept. coordinator of sanctions Dan Fried responded to objections to these actions from State officials, and contacted Congress to attempt to have the sanctions codified to complicate Trump efforts to lift them. Another State Dept. official, Tom Malinowski, also alarmed, brought up the same issue with Congress. Source

During the Trump administration’s first week in office, administration officials also said they were considering an executive order to unilaterally lift sanctions against Russia. Source

Russia engaged in cyber warfare to compromise the US elections process, and one of Trump’s first actions as President was to attempt to reward them. Giving aid and comfort to the enemy?

On May 31, 2017, it was reported that Donald Trump was moving toward returning to Russia two diplomatic compounds in Long Island and Maryland. The US had seized the compounds in December 2016 in response to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. President Obama had stated that the compounds were being “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes.” US officials had suspected the compounds were used for intelligence purposes based on aerial and other surveillance since as early as the 1980s. Source

In August 2017, after Congress passed legislation with a veto-proof majority imposing further sanctions on Russia, Trump signed the bill despite expressing strong disagreement with it. The bill required the Trump administration to spell out what entities belonged to Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors, and would be subject to the sanctions, within 60 days. Trump failed to do so, missing the deadline. Source

Donald Trump Campaign/Administration Derogating US Intelligence and the Ongoing Investigation

In December 2016, after the CIA announced its conclusion that Russia had intervened in the 2016 election specifically to help Trump win, Donald Trump dismissed the finding by attacking the CIA.  Again stating the situation in essentially the same terms as Putin often used, Trump stated, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” Source

On January 3-4, 2017, Donald Trump further attacked the US intelligence community on Twitter:

Donald Trump Campaign/Administration Actions to Hinder US Intelligence and the Ongoing Investigation

See Obstruction of the FBI Investigation for more information.

On May 9, 2017, Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, head of the Trump–Russia investigation. The administration offered varying explanations for why Comey was fired, including his alleged poor handling of the earlier investigation during the presidential campaign into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Later, Trump contradicted his own staff and acknowledged he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation. Source

On May 10, 2017, Donald Trump met with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office. Trump barred American reporters but allowed Russian press into the meeting. Source During the meeting, Trump told the Russians that Comey was “crazy, a real nutjob,” and that his firing of Comey would relieve great pressure that he was under due to the FBI investigation. Source Trump also revealed to the Russians sensitive classified intelligence, including information about Israeli cyber operations that penetrated a small terrorist group in Syria, and learned that they were working on explosives that looked like laptop batteries and could fool X-ray machines and other airport screening. Israeli officials were “infuriated.” Source