Washington –President Donald Trump signed into law Wednesday morning act that levies new approval against Russia and restricts Trump’s own capability to ease sanctions in place against Moscow.
The bill is one of the first main pieces of legislation that was sent to Trump’s desk, and it performs a rebuke of the President by giving Congress new veto power to block him from removing Russia sanctions.
The White House declared the signing shortly after 11 a.m. ET, saying the bill includes “a number of clearly unlawful provisions” that “purport to displace the President’s absolute constitutional authority to recognize foreign governments, including their territorial bounds.”
Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev replied strongly to the bill’s signing, saying it displayed a “fully-fledged trade war (has been) announced against Russia” and that “the Trump administration demonstrated full impotence, in the most humbling manner, transferring executive powers to Congress.”
In a statement, Trump declared his own doubts about the constitution: “The bill remains sincerely flawed — especially because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to arrange.”
“Congress could not even arrange a health care bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the executive’s resilience, this bill creates it harder for the United States to drive good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together,” he said in a statement.
He completed the statement by saying: “I make a truly good company worth many billions of dollars. That is a large part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can build far better deals with foreign nations than Congress.”
Even before Trump signed the bill, the measure prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to retaliate against the US over the new sanctions, which Congress levied over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election, as well as Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in Syria.
In a Facebook post Wednesday, Medvedev said any hope of implemented relations between Washington and the Kremlin had “ended,” adding he thought Trump was an “incompetent player (who) must be eliminated.”
Medvedev predicted future relations between Russia and the US “will be highly tense, regardless of the Congress line up or the identity of the President,” and threatened to expand the matter to international courts.
The new sanctions bill hits Russia’s energy and defense components, and also includes fresh sanctions against Iran and North Korea.
It comes amid incrementing tension between the US and Russia, dating back to the past days of the Barack Obama administration, when the then President ordered the breakdown of two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to alleged election meddling by Moscow.
Since the new sanctions were discuss, Russia has responded by ordering the US to cut staff at its diplomatic missions in the nation by 755 employees, as well as catching two US diplomatic properties. In a statement Wednesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it “reserves the right to other countermeasures” in response to the new sanctions and called the sanctions “regrettable”, “short-sighted” and “dangerous.”
The measure was signed into law after it reached with amazing margins in both the House and Senate — which made the risk of a presidential veto a non-starter — but it was not a simple road to Trump’s desk.
After the Senate passed the sanctions on Iran and Russia 98-2, the bill failed in the House for more than a month amid a progress of procedural fights. Then the House added North Korean sanctions before passing the measure 419-3, effectively forcing the Senate to devour the new sanctions in order to get the legislation over the complete line before Congress left for its August congressional recess.
The House and Senate struck a deal to make some changes to the bill at the urging of a host of US industries and European nations, but Congress did not consider creating the change that the White House wanted: removing the congressional review on Russia sanctions from the bill.
White House officials promoted to weaken the section giving Congress a veto on the easing of sanctions, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Congress the administration should have “flexibility” to agree with Russia and implement relations.
But key Republican and Democratic lawmakers said that weakening congressional review was not on the table when they were concluding the legislation.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, who originally was hesitant to pass a Russia sanctions bill before he was a key driver to get it done in July, said he has spoken to the President about the review process to try to ease the White House’s concerns.
Corker said that Congress would only veto an attempt to lessen sanctions on Russia if the administration took an “egregious” stage to try to delete sanctions.
“I’ve walked the President through the procedure of how congressional review works,” Corker said. “The administration — knowing that unless it’s way out of bounds — likely they have the flexibility to do what they want to do.”
Corker noted that Trump has refused to believe his intelligence leaders that Russia interfered with the election, and said that may have helped push Congress to get the bill done quickly.
“I do think that the absence of strong statements in that regard probably affected the outcome,” he said.