The Trump Administration was preparing to lift sanctions on Russia when the president took office, two former senior State Department officials told NBC News Thursday.
Daniel Fried, a senior diplomat who retired in February, said he became aware of the effort in the early weeks of President Donald Trump's presidency. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.
Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state for human rights, began lobbying Congress with Fried to pass legislation codifying the sanctions, Malinowski told NBC News. A bill has been introduced in the Senate and the Trump team later backed off, he added.
"It would be politically stinky," Malinowski said of the Trump team continuing to pursue the effort in light of the investigation into coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.