Senators Pressure Trump Administration After Missed Deadline to Start Implementing Russia Sanctions

Two top lawmakers slammed the Trump administration Wednesday for failing to “get their act together” and meet an October deadline to start implementing Russia sanctions.

“The delay calls into question the Trump administration’s commitment to the sanctions bill which was signed into law more than two months ago, following months of public debate and negotiations in Congress,” said Arizona senator John McCain and Maryland senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “They’ve had plenty of time to get their act together.”

The penalties related to Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors are part of a wide-ranging sanctions bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress this summer. By Oct. 1, Trump officials were supposed to issue regulations or guidance specifying relevant Kremlin defense or intelligence-linked people or companies who could be punished. The administration has not done so.

President Trump signed the broader sanctions bill into law in early August but described it as “seriously flawed” in part because “it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate.”

The legislation also included North Korea and Iran sanctions, though deadlines related to those authorities aren’t until later, an aide told THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

Delaware senator Chris Coons, a Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said this week that the administration has not yet fully used the Iran sanctions authorities that Congress granted it.

“The Senate handed President Trump new sanction authorities, tougher sanction authorities against Iran’s ballistic missile program, its support for terrorism, and its human rights violations,” he told reporters on a conference call. “The administration has not yet used those powers as broadly and fully as they could, or engaged our European allies in joining us in new sanctions.”

Administration officials had primarily objected to a provision in the bill that allows Congress to review any decision by the president to modify sanctions on the Kremlin.

“I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told lawmakers in June.

Cardin and McCain on Wednesday also faulted the administration for not coordinating with European allies on pushback to the Kremlin, as the lawmakers had advised in a late September letter requesting a briefing on the sanctions implementation process.

“There does not appear to be a significant diplomatic effort to engage our allies in Europe and lead an effort to increase pressure on Moscow,” they said. “Congressional intent was clear, reflected in the overwhelming bipartisan majority in favor of the legislation.”

“We again request that the administration respond to our letter, and engage Congress in a serious way moving forward.”

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard

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