In an effort to prevent the improvement of Russia-US ties following the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, State Department officials appointed during the administration of President Barack Obama engaged in a focused backroom campaign to block bilateral diplomatic normalization between the two superpowers.
Officials, including Obama's assistant secretary of state for human rights Tom Malinowski, claim that they provided the momentum to push US lawmakers into drafting and placing into law a bill that would make the normalization of diplomatic relations between Washington and Moscow illegal, unless Congressional approval was received first.
Malinowski and others, seeking to prevent the lifting of economic sanctions against Russia by the Trump administration, approached lawmakers including Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who were able to ram through the bill with little or no debate.
"It would have been a win-win for Moscow," Malinowski told Yahoo News of the Trump team's efforts, kept secret from the US public.
Almost immediately after Trump's inauguration, State Department staffers were tasked with crafting plans for the lifting of economic sanctions, returning diplomatic compounds and other measures.
Other channels within the previous administration also worked frantically to prevent any Trump-backed normalization of ties between Moscow and Washington.
Following Trump's inauguration as the 45th US president, State Department official Dan Fried claimed that he was the recipient of many panicked telephone calls from multiple government officials, seeking a way to stop a US-Russia reconciliation, according to Antiwar.com.
"We've been reviewing all the sanctions — and this is not exclusive to Russia," a senior White House official confirmed, stating that the move was part of a broader policy review that continues to this day.
During the period immediately following the inauguration, Trump — now said to have been stymied in his pro-Russia efforts — quickly reversed a much-ballyhooed 2016 campaign pledge to normalize relations with Moscow, much to many of his supporters' dismay, justifying the about face by claiming that he was seeking additional concessions from the Kremlin.