Posted by Curt on 19 March, 2017 at 10:44 am. 1 comment.


Byron York:

A key talking point in the theory that Donald Trump and the Russians conspired in the 2016 election is the allegation that last summer, during the Republican convention, the Trump campaign changed the GOP platform to weaken its stance on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

It’s been cited many, many times. The only problem is, it’s all wrong.

The wildest expression of the theory came, as it often does, from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who told viewers on March 8 that “something weird” happened to the GOP platform on “that Ukraine and Russia thing” when the Trump team “jumped right up on that and they insisted that that plank only, that one, had to be taken out, that language could not stand.”

Maddow’s charge echoed what Democrats have long been saying about the issue. “Donald Trump changed the Republican platform to become what some experts would regard as pro-Russian,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told ABC on July 24 of last year. Some journalists, including those less fevered than Maddow, joined in to report the so-called weakening as an accepted fact. National Public Radio, for example, explained “how the Trump campaign weakened the Republican platform on aid to Ukraine.”

Much of the reporting and commentary appears to spring from a single story, published in the Washington Post on July 18, 2016, with the headline “Trump campaign guts GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine.” The piece reported that the Trump team “orchestrated a set of events” to change the platform in a pro-Russian direction.

Missing from all the talk is what the Republican platform actually said before it was allegedly “gutted” by Trump. What did the original draft of the platform say about Russia and Ukraine? Was it, in fact, changed? If so, how?

As it turns out, a look at the original draft of the platform — which has never been released publicly — shows that it always had tough language on Russian aggression in Ukraine. And not only did that language stay in the final platform — nothing was taken out — it was actually strengthened, not weakened, as a result of events at the convention.

The controversy is over a chapter in the original platform headlined “America Resurgent.” The original draft discussed Russia and Ukraine in two parts of the chapter. The first passage warned of “a resurgent Russia occupying parts of Ukraine and threatening neighbors from the Baltic to the Caucasus.”

The second passage was more expansive and began by noting a desire to maintain a friendship with “the people of Russia.” But better relations are made more difficult, the draft said, by “the continuing erosion of personal liberty and fundamental rights under the current officials in the Kremlin”:

Repressive at home and reckless abroad, their policies imperil the nations which regained their self-determination upon the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will meet the return of Russian belligerence with the same resolve that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will not accept any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force, in Ukraine or elsewhere, and will use all appropriate measures to bring to justice the practitioners of aggression and assassination.

That wasn’t exactly a pro-Russia or pro-Putin statement. And it stayed in the final Republican platform.

Not only that, the later, final platform contained a few additional words on Russia and Ukraine that weren’t in the original draft. To the first passage cited above, after “from the Baltic to the Caucasus,” the GOP platform committee added this:

We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine and greater coordination with NATO defense planning.

That wasn’t exactly pro-Russian, either. The bottom line: The original GOP draft platform contained reasonably tough language on Russia, and the amendment process added tougher language on Russia.

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