Zeeshan Aleem · Tuesday, February 14, 2017, 2:15 pm
Warming ties with the Kremlin is becoming riskier and riskier.
On Monday evening, President Trump lost his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who resigned amid a swarm of questions about whether he misled top White House officials and the FBI over a December phone call with the Russian ambassador to the US. But in the process, Trump may have also suffered another major loss: his best and easiest shot at warming ties with Russia, by lifting sanctions on the country.
The Trump administration has been struck by a hurricane of controversy stemming from Flynn’s resignation, including questions over whether Flynn potentially illegally discussed lifting sanctions on Russia during his communications with the Russian diplomat, and a continuing FBI probe into those communications, which could lead to criminal prosecutions. Additionally, the Army is looking into whether Flynn received money from the Russian government for a trip to Moscow in 2015, which could be a violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
There are also questions over how much Trump or top White House officials actually knew about Flynn’s call — including whether Trump may have authorized it in the first place.
The unprecedented scrutiny of ties between the Trump administration and Moscow is in and of itself politically damaging for the White House. But it also might rob Trump of his ability to lift sanctions on Russia, one of his most widely anticipated maneuvers designed to reset Washington’s relationship with the Kremlin.