Is Today the End of a Chapter in the Trump Administration?

Image via the Nation

The latest sanctions placed on Russia may have killed the media’s collusion narrative.

On Wednesday, President Trump signed a bill approving new sanctions for Russia, North Korea, and Iran. The bill had previously passed the House of Representatives by a 419-3 vote – an overwhelmingly successful bipartisan effort – but has still managed to spark controversy.

The law is aimed at countries that:

  • Violate human rights
  • Aid in corruption
  • Weaken US cybersecurity
  • Invest in Russian energy pipelines
  • Operate with Russia’s intelligence agencies
  • Offer aid to Assad’s Syrian regime

The proposal includes a provision stating that the President use five of twelve given sanctions to any member of the aforementioned groups. This way, the law reduces the President’s power to lessen and remove sanctions without Congressional approval. The sanctions for North Korea and Iran are nearly identical to the ones placed on Russia, yet have created much less debate.

In a clear blow to the Trump Administration’s prior willingness to forge a relationship with Moscow, 755 U.S. diplomats were expelled from Russia in response to the sanctions.

Russia’s leaders aren’t the only one’s displeased by the bill. President Trump noted that the proposal “included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions.” Moreover, his administration holds that the bill displaces the President’s constitutional authority to acknowledge foreign governments.

While it was certainly politically appropriate for President Trump to sign the bill, the fact he feels opposed to it begs the question: does his signature actually kill the Russia narrative?

Russia has been a thorn in Donald Trump’s side since the campaign season, when rumors swirled that Russia favored him to Hillary Clinton. The ensuing firestorm of rage from the left has many wondering the extent to which Russia was successful in tampering with the election, and whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with the country.

The scandal has lingered on for months, and even CNN has admitted it is a witch-hunt. Zero proof has surfaced suggesting collusion, although there was some evidence when it was discovered that Donald Trump Jr. met with an attorney with direct ties to Russia.

Nevertheless, the narrative has persisted. The media has leaped from scandal to scandal desperately searching for the evidence to call for Trump’s impeachment. Each frenzied attempt to discredit Mr. Trump has ended the same way, with the anguishing realization that there is no real story here, and that Mr. Trump will remain president for the foreseeable future.

This could be the end of a chapter in Donald Trump’s presidency. The passage of something so detrimental to Russia, irrespective of the President’s personal opinions, casts doubt in the eyes of the public about whether Trump could have colluded with Russia. Americans have a notoriously low attention span, and clinging to an issue like this any longer will fare poorly for media outlets. Many Americans, already tired of the Russia narrative, will hear about this bill and draw the conclusion that Trump must not be as cozy with Putin as previously assumed. In the media’s eyes, abandoning the issue will be the only sensible solution.

Thus, the acquisition of new evidence is the only way to revive the narrative. If any such evidence arises, Russia will no longer define Trump’s first days – instead, they will define his last.

For the time being, the Russia narrative is as good as dead.

Joel Gillison is a student the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill studying public policy.

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