Avlon: If You Believe Trump’s Been Tougher on Russia than His Predecessors then I’ve Got a Penthouse in Trump Tower Moscow
AVLON: "Guys, so let’s set the table. The weekend -- this weekend we found out that the FBI suspected the president of the United States of being a Russian asset and that he took his interpreter’s notes away in order to hide details about a private meeting with Putin. Now, this isn't Fillmore fanfiction, this is 2019. And as part Trump's counterattack he tried out one of his favorite talking points. Quote, 'I have been far tougher on Russia than Obama, Bush, or Clinton. Maybe tougher than any other president.' This has quickly echoed by Sarah Sanders and it’s a claim he’s made at least 14 times during his presidency. And like many of his Russia-related claims, it’s just not true. There were 101 contacts between Russia-linked operatives and the Trump campaign in transition. According to 'The Moscow Project' which is funded by liberal policy group that includes 28 meetings, and there was an attempt to, quote, 'cover up' every single one of them. During the 2016 convention, Trump aides watered down platform language regarding Russia and Ukraine and candidate Trump called on Russians to hack his opponent's e-mails, which they tried to do the very same day. During the transition, Michael Flynn and Erik Prince back channeled with Russians presumably about sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. And of course on the only human being on Earth President Trump refuses to criticize is Vladimir Putin. He’s even admitted Russian’s influence on his decisions telling their ambassador in private Oval Office meeting, quote, 'I faced great pressure because of Russia and by firing Comey pressure was taken off.' That’s according to 'The Times.' This is the opposite of tough talk. But, what about his actions? Well, it's fair to say that Trump's OG national security team of Mattis, McMaster and Tillerson were far tougher on Russia, calling out the country national security strategy and pushing for lethal arm sales to Ukraine. But Trump reportedly told aides not to talk up the Ukrainian arms deal and all three of those Russia hawks got the boot. Now team Trump often points to Russia's sanctions as evidence of their toughness. But the new sanctions were only enacted after the Senate voted 98-2, everyone except Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul to force the administration into action. Trump reluctantly signed the bill after pronouncing the sanctions, quote, 'seriously flawed.' And then his administration slow rolled their implementation. Now Democrats are grilling Trump's treasury secretary over a puzzling recent decision to let a key Russian oligarch’s companies off the hook. Trump has consistently acted outside American norms but consistent with Russian goals from attacking the E.U. and NATO, accepting Putin's seizure of Crimea and abruptly announcing the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, factually seeding the region to Russia and its allies. And after the Trump Administration announcing it was expelling 60 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil, Trump was reportedly furious that we went too far. Quote, 'There were curse words,' one official told 'The Washington Post,' a lot of curse words from the president. So whether the comparison is Obama’s sanctions, Reagan’s challenge to tear down this wall or JFK staring down the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis, if you believe that Trump’s been tougher than his predecessors on Russia then I’ve got a penthouse in Trump Tower Moscow. And that's your reality check."