Trump to Sign Russia Sanctions, Avoid Face-Off With CongressBy
Legislation restricts president’s ability to lift penalties
New sanctions also imposed on Iran, North Korea in bill
President Donald Trump intends to sign legislation passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House and Senate strengthening sanctions on Russia and giving Congress the power to block him from lifting them.
“President Donald J. Trump read early drafts of the bill and negotiated regarding critical elements of it,” the White House said in a statement released Friday. “He has now reviewed the final version and, based on its responsiveness to his negotiations, approves the bill and intends to sign it.”
Passage of the sanctions legislation prompted sweeping retaliation from Russia, which ordered the U.S. to slash hundreds of embassy and other personnel in the country.
The Russia sanctions in H.R. 3364 are an unusual signal of disapproval of Trump from congressional Republicans. Lawmakers said they wanted to prevent the president from acting on his own to lift penalties imposed by the previous administration for meddling in last year’s U.S. election and for aggression in Ukraine. House and Senate committees and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are examining possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The White House had been sending mixed signals on whether Trump would force a showdown with Congress over the bill, which also imposes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea, arguing that it hampered the president’s ability to negotiate. But the legislation cleared both the House and Senate by wide margins, indicating any presidential veto would be overridden.
The tougher sanctions and the Russian reaction threatened to cast the two nuclear-armed powers into a new spiral of tensions even as relations are already at their lowest point since the Cold War. For Trump, the worsening conflict poses a dilemma between his oft-stated desire to build ties with Russia and mounting congressional opposition to that effort.
“The near unanimous votes for the sanctions legislation in Congress represent the strong will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement on Saturday. “We hope that there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues and these sanctions will no longer be necessary.”
The sanctions against Iran, modeled on previous executive orders, were designed to punish entities that support terrorism, sell weapons to the country, or help its ballistic missile program. The bill also authorizes, but doesn’t require, sanctions on human-rights abusers.
The North Korea sanctions are designed to punish the country for its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs. The bill contains additional economic sanctions and requires banks to ensure their accounts aren’t being used in transactions involving sanctioned entities.
The U.S. will work closely with “friends and Allies to ensure our messages to Russia, Iran, and North Korea are clearly understood,” Tillerson said in the statement.
— With assistance by Henry Meyer, Ilya Arkhipov, and Terrence Dopp