News & Politics

Anatomy of a Fake News Story

Graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

The latest news from Washington intended to shock and appall us about the Trump administration is that the president asked the State Department to “look into” lifting sanctions on Russia soon after the inauguration. What’s worse, the U.S. would have gotten “absolutely nothing” in return.

The sanctions were originally put on Russia for their invasion and annexation of Crimea.

Outrage! If this doesn’t prove that Trump has a man crush on Putin, I don’t know what does.

Right?

Business Insider:

Yahoo News and NBC Newsreported on Thursday that State Department officials scrambled in January to push back on orders from the Trump administration to begin looking into lifting sanctions on Russia.

One of those officials, Tom Malinowski, who stepped down as President Barack Obama’s assistant secretary of state for human rights on January 19, corroborated those reports in an interview on Friday.

“I heard after stepping down that, unsurprisingly, the White House was beginning to consider drafting the actual substance of a deal with the Russians,” Malinowski told Business Insider. “That doesn’t mean any decisions had been made, but as you would expect for a president who campaigned on getting rid of impediments to chummy US-Russia relations, his administration immediately started charting ways forward to achieving that.”

But despite President Donald Trump’s insistence on making the best deals, in this case, it seems the US wouldn’t have gotten much in return. (emphasis added)

1. How can someone not even around when the discussions were taking place be relied on to “corroborate” information he got secondhand?

2. No decision on easing sanctions had been made, so what’s the story?

3. Did Trump really campaign on lifting sanctions? Or did he say he would consider it?

4. It may “seem” to this guy and other anti-Trump State Department employees that Trump was going to give the Russians what they wanted while getting nothing in return, but since he wasn’t privy to what was being discussed, what the hell does it matter what “seems” to be his biased impression?

Malinowski and Daniel Fried, who was the chief US coordinator for sanctions policy until he retired in late February, had to lobby Congress to halt the development of the sanctions-lifting package after government officials began ringing “alarm bells about possible concessions being made” to Russia, Malinowski said.

Fried told Yahoo News that US government officials called him in a panic after receiving the White House’s request.

“Please, my God, can’t you stop this?” Fried recalled them asking.

The revelation that Trump prioritized a review of the sanctions during his first week in office comes as the FBI scrutinizes his campaign’s contacts with Moscow.

This fellow, Malinowski, certainly got around, didn’t he? The president orders a review of our Russian sanctions policy and the former assistant secretary of state for human rights — who had nothing to do with sanctions policy while he was with the State Department — was the number one guy to “ring alarm bells” about “possible” concessions being made.

The anonymous U.S. officials who called Mr. Fried “in a panic” obviously overreacted. Wetting their pants over a review of sanctions (the White House says they were reviewing all sanctions imposed on every country), does not recommend one for an important government job. Who’s to say that the White House was seriously considering lifting Russia’s sanctions without getting anything in return? Trump is stupid but even he knows how to make a deal.

Whatever the real story here, the pants-wetting by the striped pants set worked. Senators Lindsey Graham and Ben Cardin introduced a bill back in February that would require congressional authorization for any relief of sanctions on Russia.

Of course, the review of sanctions would not be “news” except it’s Russia and Trump, and we see the twisting of facts to make it appear Trump is showing favoritism to Putin because, well, he’s a traitor, as you know, and every little thing having to do with Moscow is suspect — even though it really isn’t.

I think that about covers it.