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- Thomson Reuters
- The author of the dossier detailing President Donald Trump’s alleged connections to Russia wrote another report in late 2016 that alleged Russia had intervened to block Trump’s nomination of former Utah Gov. Mitt Romney for secretary of state.
- Russia allegedly wanted Trump to pick someone who would cooperate with them on their goals in Syria and would lift sanctions that were imposed because of Russia’s incursions into Ukraine.
- Trump eventually chose Rex Tillerson for the job, and has refused to enforce sanctions approved by Congress in late 2016.
Former British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the influential dossier detailing President Donald Trump’s connections to Russia, reportedly wrote a memo in 2016 that contained a bombshell claim that wasn’t included in his original dossier – that Russia had told Trump not to nominate former Utah Gov. Mitt Romney for secretary of state because of his perceived hawkishness toward Russia.
The New Yorker detailed how Steele reportedly claimed that Moscow had contacted Trump and instructed him to drop Romney and instead nominate someone who would be willing to lift sanctions placed on Russia due to its incursions into Ukraine in 2014, and would be open to working with Russia on its own geopolitical goals in places like Syria.
Steele’s work as an intelligence operative means that the research he did about Trump during and after the 2016 election cycle is simply raw intelligence, and the majority of his most explosive claims have yet to be independently corroborated. But if true, the claims in his newly unveiled report would mean Moscow might have had a direct role in shaping the executive branch of the US.
This would not be the only time Russia communicated with the Trump transition team. In December 2016, former Russian ambassador to the US Sergei Kislyak met with Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn to discuss Trump’s view on sanctions toward Russia. Flynn pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about these communications after being charged by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Instead of nominating Romney, Trump eventually named Rex Tillerson to head the State Department. Tillerson had previously been awarded the Russian Order of Friendship during his time as the CEO of Exxon Mobil, and he was seen as having a close relationship with Russia.
Tillerson though quickly proved to be more independent-minded on Russia, and in late 2017 made his position on Russia’s actions in Ukraine clear.
“We will never accept Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea. Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine,” he said, according to Reuters.
But new sanctions approved by Congress at the end of 2017 have not yet been implemented by the Trump administration, and the deadline for them to be fully put in place passed in January.