NBC reporter Kelly O’Donnell tried to separate actions by the Trump administration’s Treasury Department implementing Russian sanctions away from the judgment of President Trump.
On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced plans to sanction five Russian individuals and 19 entities for their attempted interference in U.S. elections and their cyber attacks targeting critical infrastructure.
But even though Mnuchin works for President Trump, O’Donnell tried to separate this latest round of sanctions from the commander-in-chief.
“It’s also part of the longer conversation about Russian meddling, where the U.S. has at times taken steps, but at times from the president, there’s been a more muted response when it comes to Russia,” O’Donnell said. “So this is one of those ways the administration sort of counterbalances the absence of the president being more forceful on this issue.”
O’Donnell neglected to mention that last year, Trump signed legislation sanctioning Russia for human rights abuses and evading existing sanctions. Trump also sanctioned more than three dozen organizations and individuals involved in the Russian annexation of Crimea and also approved the largest sale of lethal defense weapons to Ukrainian forces in years, actions praised by U.S. and Ukrainian officials.
The weapons sales happened under Trump’s watch even as former President Barack Obama refused to arm the Ukrainians, instead sending night-vision goggles and armored vests (Obama also mocked candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign for highlighting the geostrategic threat of Russia after Obama told former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev he would have “more flexibility” about missile defense after the November presidential election).
O’Donnell also didn’t report about how in response to Russia’s retaliation over U.S. sanctions, the Trump administration ordered Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco and two diplomatic annexes in New York and Washington.
Trump has increased training and drills with U.S. NATO partners, and this year Trump’s Department of Defense plans to increase European Deterrence Initiative spending by $1.4 billion. Thanks to pressure from Trump, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said European members and Canada spent 5 percent more on defense in 2017 over 2016 — Putin can’t be happy about that.
By unshackling the oil and shale industries, Trump has allowed Europeans and other consumers to be less dependent on Russian oil sources. As Walter Russell Mead described in The Wall Street Journal, “Fracking frustrates Vladimir Putin more than sanctions, and much more than harsh rhetoric at the United Nations. When the price of oil is $150 a barrel and every country in Europe is desperate for energy, Russia casts a long shadow over the EU. When oil is at $60 a barrel and supplies are plentiful, Russian leverage is dramatically diminished.”
Without offering greater context, O’Donnell leaves her viewers with ambiguity about Trump’s stance on Russia, but his actions speak louder than her words.