The Trump administration considered “unilaterally” easing sanctions on Russia’s oil industry well after the ouster of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, the Daily Beast reports.
Former U.S. officials told the Beast the White House tried to argue the sanctions against the Russian oil industry harm the U.S. economy, but State Department officials were able to successfully argue the opposite is true.
“Russia continues to occupy Ukraine including Crimea—conditions that led to the sanctions have not changed,” one State Department official explained to a White House aide, according to emails of that exchange. Barack Obama imposed sanctions against Russia after the country annexed Crimea in 2014.
National Security Council strategist Kevin Harrington was “very aggressively pushing” for officials to determine “whether U.S. national interests were being harmed by sanctions on Russian oil,” according to one former official. Those requests were made in March under General H.R. McMaster, who was named Trump’s national security adviser following Flynn’s departure.
Discussions of sanctions against Russia ultimately sank Flynn’s short-lived tenure at the White House; the president fired Flynn after the administration claimed Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence about discussing sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the Trump transition. The nature of those conversations between Flynn and Russian operatives is at the core of multiple Congressional and federal investigations into the Trump team’s contacts with the Russian government.