In an interview with CBS News Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan broadcast Sunday, President Donald Trump said that he has been “tougher on Russia than any president, maybe ever.”
Donald Trump is being accused of conspiring with the Kremlin to sway the 2016 presidential election in his favor. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, appointed to investigate Russian election meddling and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and official Moscow, has received praise and support from the Democratic Party and from the public.
Brennan and Trump discussed Robert Mueller’s probe and Trump’s policy toward Russia. When asked whether he was surprised about some of the questions Robert Mueller had asked him, the president responded by calling the collusion investigation “a hoax” — a pejorative he has often used to describe to probe — and by claiming that he has been tougher on Russian than any of his predecessors.
“Well, look the Russia thing is a hoax. I have been tougher on Russia than any president, maybe ever. But than any president.”
Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan pushed back against the president, arguing that the fact that dozens of individuals have been charged in Mueller’s probe — with seven pleading guilty — suggests that the investigation is, in fact, not a hoax.
“Of the 34 people, many of them were bloggers from Moscow or they were people that had nothing to do with me,” the president said.
“I think it’s a terrible thing that’s happened to this country because this investigation is a witch hunt,” he added.
Trump addressed the guilty pleas and the indictments borne out of Mueller’s investigation, including the indictment of longtime Republican operative Roger Stone. According to the president, Stone only worked on the campaign at the beginning. When asked whether he would pardon him, Trump said that he has not thought about the issue.
The president reaffirmed once again that no one has been tougher on Russia than him. “Remember this. Remember this. There’s been no president that has been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump,” he said.
But how tough has Donald Trump been on Russia?
Unlike former President Barack Obama — who supported Ukraine in its fight against Russia-backed separatists, but refrained from supplying the Ukrainians with weapons — Trump sent military aid to the country. According to Newsweek, the Trump administration supplied the Ukrainian army with lethal anti-tank systems.
According to reporting from CNBC, the Trump administration is responsible for imposing “some of the toughest sanctions in years” on members of the Russian business elite. Furthermore, following the poisoning of former KGB agent Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom, Trump expelled 60 Russian diplomats from the United States, and in July 2018, the administration refused to recognize Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
The latest in line of foreign policy maneuvers incongruent with claims that Donald Trump is controlled by the Kremlin is the decision to withdraw from the landmark INF treaty.
Russia is in material breach of the #INFTreaty & must use next 6 months to return to full & verifiable compliance or bear sole responsibility for its demise. #NATO fully supports the US suspension & notification of withdrawal from the Treaty: https://t.co/VOhUB0HoAd pic.twitter.com/28Rwicqr8o— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) February 1, 2019
“U.S. pulling out of the INF treaty rewards Putin, hurts NATO,” a CNN headline reads, directly contradicting NATO’s official statement. As reported by Reuters, NATO released a statement on February 1, praising the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the treaty.
“Allies fully support this action,” the statement said.