Trump OKs Russian Sanctions, Calls Some 'Unconstitutional'

Congress passed them as retaliation for meddling in the 2016 election
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2017 9:54 AM CDT
Updated Aug 2, 2017 10:34 AM CDT
President Trump speaks at a luncheon with GOP senators in July.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(Newser) – As expected, President Trump signed new Russian sanctions into law on Wednesday—"quietly," reports the Hill. And, it turns out, with loud reservations. Both the House and Senate passed the sanctions by overwhelming, veto-proof margins—517 in favor, just 5 against across both houses—as retaliation for Russian interference in the 2016 election, reports the AP. Trump opted not to try to defy Congress. But he did release two signing statements. What you need to know:

  • Politico reports the White House released two statements (here and here) nearly simultaneously. A line from one: "In its haste to pass this legislation, the Congress included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions," including one that "purport[s] to displace the President's exclusive constitutional authority to recognize foreign governments."
  • A line from the other: The bill "remains seriously flawed–particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch's authority to negotiate ... and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together. The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President. This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice. Yet despite its problems, I am signing this bill for the sake of national unity."
  • For context, Bloomberg notes that signing statements are nothing new: George W. Bush and Barack Obama issued them in instances where they weren't thrilled with what they were signing.

  • So what are the sanctions? The Los Angeles Times has a primer: One set focuses on hobbling Russia's ability to export weapons. Another involves its energy sector, and that's one instance where the EU is irked over the possibility of being unintentionally affected: Russia and Germany are currently working on a natural gas pipeline that would run between them.
  • Two other facets of note, per the Washington Post: North Korea and Iran also see new sanctions imposed under the legislation, and no sanctions can be lifted without Congress' OK.
  • Interesting side note from the LAT: The bill was born out of concern over North Korea and Iran's nuclear weapons programs; Russia wasn't included until later.
  • Vladimir Putin, who continues to deny any such meddling, previously responded to the proposed sanctions with US penalties of his own.
  • One take from Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "Trump has expressed more concerns about Congress's Russia sanctions bill than about Putin's expulsion of US diplomats."
  • And another from GOP Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake: "There are times I'll agree w @realDonaldTrump & times I'll disagree. Today he should be commended for signing #RussiaSanctionsBill."
(Read more President Trump stories.)

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