No, the title of this article is not a typo. It’s just how crazy American politics have become. Whether you are a Donald Trump supporter or not, there is no arguing that the Trump White House has become somewhat of an American drama.
Ever since the 17 United States Intelligence Agencies have confirmed that Russia meddled in the U.S. election process and President Obama decided to put sanctions on Moscow, voters from both the right and the left have anxiously been waiting to see if and when President Trump would lift or ease these very sanctions. Those on the left and some on the right feel that if the sanctions are lifted, it would give any and all U.S. enemies the green light to consider meddling with future U.S. elections. At the same time, there have been rumors circulating, since the release of the controversial dossier, which alleged that Trump had been colluding with Russia for quite some time.
Early this afternoon, the Department of the Treasury in Washington D.C. released a document outlining changes to sanctions which were originally put in place by President Obama on April 1, 2015 and then amended again by Obama on December 28, 2016 after it was discovered that Russia had meddled with our election. News broke across several major media outlets claiming, “Trump eases sanctions on Russia”. This was then reciprocated by Donald Trump Jr. retweeting a story about this being “Fake News”, as well as President Trump and Press Secretary Sean Spicer stating that they “did not ease sanctions on Russia.”
“We are not easing sanctions,” said Spicer. “The Treasury Department — from what I understand, it is a fairly common practice for the Treasury Department, after sanctions are put in place, to go back and to look at whether or not there needs to be specific carve-outs for different either industries or products and services that need to be going back and forth.”
Trump briefly spoke to reporters on the topic while he met with executives of Harley-Davidson today.
“I haven’t eased anything,” Trump claimed. “I haven’t eased anything.”
So what actually did happen? It is becoming commonplace that the Trump administration tends to abide by “alternative facts” in comparison to the facts that the media reports on. Fact is, the sanctions have been eased — at least if you define the word “ease” the same way that Dictionary.com does.
Eased: to mitigate, lighten, or lessen
As you can read in the Treasury Department document, the sanctions on Russia have been lessened, lightened, or “eased” to some degree. No, Trump did not “Lift” the sanctions but he certainly eased them. Basically, what the amendment does is now allow U.S. companies to apply to the Russian Federal Security Service or FSB in order to be granted permission to sell encrypted electronic devices. The Russian FSB must provide permission for these devices from U.S. companies to be imported. This was in fact banned by the previously standing sanctions, thus removing this restriction is considered easing the original sanctions.
It’s quite obvious that the Trump administration did “ease Russian sanctions” whether they want to lie about it or not, although the influence that this easement has, is yet to be determined. Regardless, several members of Senate and the House took to Twitter condemning such an action. Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, went so far as to release an official statement demanding the FBI look closer at ties between Trump and Putin (seen below).
Whether you feel that Trump’s lessening of sanctions on Russia was warranted or not, it will be interesting to see if further easing takes place at a later date. With Russia currently attacking U.S. ally Ukraine, this has left some Senators such as John McCain calling for U.S. support of Ukraine — which would be considered an “anti-Russian” move. Whether or not Trump obliges is yet to be seen.