In a move that undermines claims that he is controlled by the Kremlin, President Donald Trump will keep in place sanctions that the Obama administration imposed against Russia as punishment for Moscow’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election.
The Trump administration is currently conducting a full review its Russia policy, but the president will continue the sanctions, top White House economic advisor Gary Cohn said Friday. The U.S. enacted the measures a month before Trump took office, and administration critics have fretted he would lift the sanctions in an effort to draw Washington closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump has already confirmed that the U.S. will maintain the sanctions placed on Russia following Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Now, with the administration holding fast on sanctions for Russian meddling in the election, the president has dealt another a blow to critics who allege he’s a “Russian stooge” eager to do Putin’s budding.
Accusations that Trump is susceptible to influence — even blackmail — by the Russian government have dogged him since he made statements praising Putin during the presidential campaign. Opponents have also seized upon his former aides’ business connections to Russia, as well the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, floating theories that Trump is somehow controlled by handlers in the Russian government.
Certain self-styled leaders of the Trump #Resistance movement, who exist on the fringes of American political discourse but nevertheless have managed to publish their ideas in mainstream media outlets, have been the most vocal exponents of the “Russian stooge” theme.
GQ correspondent and former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has repeatedly leveled the accusation, most recently suggesting that Trump shared sensitive details about an ISIS plot with Russian officials because he’s “on the Russian payroll.”
Another voice sounding the alarm on supposed Russian manipulation of Trump comes from Louise Mensch, former British MP and co-founder of conservative news website Heat Street. A Trump critic from the moment he announced his presidential campaign, Mensch has serially promoted outlandish Trump-Russia conspiracy theories on Twitter and from her new blog, Patribotics. (RELATED: MSNBC Panelist Spouts Loony Conspiracy Theories On The Internet)
Among other completely unfounded claims, Mensch insists that Putin ordered the killing of Andrew Breitbart, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a Russian pawn, and the 15-year-old girl who sexted online with Anthony Weiner was actually a Russian hacking ring. Despite Mensch’s reputation for making wild claims unsupported by evidence, the New York Times published her op-ed March questioning the legitimacy of a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian interference in the election. (RELATED: NY Times Lends Opinion Page Space To Conspiracy Theorist)
Mainstream commentators have also indulged in casual “Russian stooge” claims. In a lengthy Foreign Policy article titled “Is Trump A Russian Stooge?” Julia Ioffe detailed the history of Trump’s efforts to develop real estate in Russia, implying that his repeated overtures to the Kremlin and Russian business leaders are evidence that he is uniquely susceptible to Moscow’s influence.
In the end, she was unable to affirmatively answer the question posed in her article’s title, concluding instead that Trump was guilty only of being an incompetent real estate developer.
“The fact that pretty much every major hotel chain in the world was able to build something in Moscow but Trump wasn’t speaks to his inability to navigate this shadowy world, and to his weakness as a businessman,” Ioffe wrote. “If Trump truly was in bed with Putin, there would be a Trump Tower in Moscow by now, if not several.”
Business Insider editor Josh Barro cast his own “stooge” aspersion in a May 17 column attacking Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for enabling Trump’s rise and election. Ryan and McCarthy can be excused for joking about the idea of Putin paying Trump, Barro said, because dark humor is a good way to distract from terrible reality that Trump is now president.
“I can’t imagine it was pleasant for McCarthy and Ryan to watch their party nominate an intemperate man-child Russian stooge for president, and I understand why they would have wanted to blow off some steam,” he wrote.
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