Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee chairman, accused Republican senators on Wednesday of colluding with the Kremlin for voting down a resolution to prevent President Donald Trump from easing sanctions against several Russian firms.
“This is an example of circling the wagon on the hill, trying to give some space, some elbow room to the president right now, to sort of shift the narrative a bit, to sort of refocus the conversation,” Steele told MSNBC host Ari Melber.
Earlier Wednesday, senators failed to reach the 60 votes required to advance the measure, ending with a final vote tally of 57-42. Several Republicans, including Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Sasse (R-NE), voted to advance it to a final vote. Last month, the Trump administration said it would move to ease sanctions on the Russian businesses linked to Putin-friendly oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Before the vote, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin lobbied against re-applying sanctions in a meeting with Senate Republicans and House Democrats, arguing Deripaska’s stake in the companies was less than 50 percent.
“It’s all collusion,” Steele responded when asked if the move to squash the vote was “collusion-y.”
“[B]ecause in my estimation if you’re taking these steps given the information, the facts, as we now see them being laid out and you’re going to slow the roll, legislatively, then you’re now a part of this narrative just as much as anybody else is as far as I’m concerned. Particularly when these guys have the evidence. They have more information than you do sitting here, and you’ve got a lot,” the former top Republican Party official continued.
“[I]f this is the step you want to take, if you’re going to gum up the work, filibuster on this measure… then you’re saying to a lot of Americans out there, that you’re down with protecting the president to such an extent that its violative of the law, you don’t care, he added. “The most important thing is to give cover to this president.”