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OpinionColumnistsWilliam F. B. O'Reilly

Why is Trump still coddling Russia?

His reversal on sanctions demands that he come clean with the American people.

President Donald Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin

President Donald Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin talk during an economic meeting in Vietnam in November. Photo Credit: EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock

Enough is enough.

This Russia thing needs to come to a head.

President Donald Trump’s got to come clean with the American people about what exactly his deal is with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Americans might be myopic, but we’re not blind and we’re not stupid. Something unkosher’s going on, and we deserve to know what it is.

On Monday, our president again reversed planned U.S. sanctions against the criminal oligarchs who surround Putin. The sanctions were announced a day earlier by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, then Trump pulled them back. They are warranted.

Russia, which solidified its position in Syria in part by promising to remove chemical weapons as a favor to the world — I still can’t believe the Obama administration fell for that — has become a willful partner in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s poisoning of civilian populations. It is declared, if unrealized, U.S. policy that that can’t stand.

Don’t be fooled by Trump’s pinprick missile strikes of three Syrian military sites over the weekend in retaliation for Assad’s latest chemical attack. They were the minimum he could do to look credible to the world. Chemical weapons facilities can be back up and running in Syria within weeks, experts say — especially with the financial help of Russian companies led by Putin cronies.

Don’t be fooled, either, by Trump’s tough tweets promising to make Russia pay a “big price” for helping Assad. They’re proving to be bluster for public consumption. When push comes to shove, Trump undermines efforts by Congress and his own administration to sanction Putin and his billionaire backers for Russian aggression toward the United States, reminding us once again to “watch the hands, not the mouth.”

Even now, Russia is upping its hostility toward America. The Pentagon reported a 2,000-fold increase in psychological warfare bot activity within the United States in the past week. Trump’s response against the advice of his own advisers? Roll back the new sanctions.

Calling these decisions inexplicable is a cop-out. Of course, there’s an explanation for Trump’s bizarre behavior. He’s just not telling us what it is. He isn’t leveling with us about his relationship with Russia, and that’s a big, big problem.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, poor thing, had to face the White House press corps again this week to mumble more inanities about Trump protecting Putin against all advice and logic.

“The president has been clear that he’s going to be tough on Russia,” she said on Monday, “but at the same time he’d still like to have a good relationship with them.”

One of these days, the wires will short circuit and Sanders will go full “. . . and Justice for All.” Those who’ve seen the 1979 film can join in my White House-briefing-room-podium fantasy.

Former FBI Director James Comey went there in an ABC News interview on Sunday. When asked whether Trump might be compromised by the Russians, he said, “These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible.”

Comey clearly has an ax to grind with Trump, but his words were remarkable, still, in that they were spoken aloud on national TV. But it can’t just be Comey.

Others should be publicly asking the question now, too, however horrible and unthinkable it might be.

Is our commander in chief unable to fully protect us from our chief adversary because it is holding something over his head?

This latest sanction reversal removes all ifs, ands or buts. Our president is acting as if it does.

William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant for Republicans.

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