President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a bill imposing new sanctions on Russia, conceding under pressure from his own party that a warmer relationship with Moscow was not in the country’s best interest.
The legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for interfering in the 2016 presidential election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where the Kremlin has backed President Bashar Assad. It also imposes financial sanctions against Iran and North Korea.
Moscow responded to a White House announcement last week that Trump intended to sign the bill, ordering a reduction in the number of U.S. diplomats in Russia.
The House overwhelmingly backed the bill, 419-3, and the Senate rapidly following their lead on a 98-2 vote. Those overwhelming margins guaranteed that Congress would be able to beat back any attempt by Trump to reject the measure.
Provisions backed by Republican and Democrats would handcuff Trump on the Russia sanctions resulted from lawmakers’ worries that he may ease the financial hits without first securing concessions from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Republicans refused to budge even after the White House complained that the “congressional review” infringed on Trump’s executive authority.
Faced with the embarrassing possibility of being overruled by Trump’s own party, the White House announced late Friday that he “approves the bill and intends to sign it.”
The proposed measures target Russia’s energy sector as part of legislation that prevents Trump from easing sanctions on Moscow without congressional approval. Two White House officials said that the president signed the bill Wednesday morning. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly before the official statement.
Story by The Associated Press
FULL TEXT OF WHITE HOUSE STATEMENT:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 2, 2017
Statement by President Donald J. Trump on Signing the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act”
Today, I signed into law the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” which enacts new sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia. I favor tough measures to punish and deter bad behavior by the rogue regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang. I also support making clear that America will not tolerate interference in our democratic process, and that we will side with our allies and friends against Russian subversion and destabilization.
That is why, since taking office, I have enacted tough new sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and shored up existing sanctions on Russia.
Since this bill was first introduced, I have expressed my concerns to Congress about the many ways it improperly encroaches on Executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies.
My Administration has attempted to work with Congress to make this bill better. We have made progress and improved the language to give the Treasury Department greater flexibility in granting routine licenses to American businesses, people, and companies. The improved language also reflects feedback from our European allies – who have been steadfast partners on Russia sanctions – regarding the energy sanctions provided for in the legislation. The new language also ensures our agencies can delay sanctions on the intelligence and defense sectors, because those sanctions could negatively affect American companies and those of our allies.
Still, the bill remains seriously flawed – particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate. Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, 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. It represents the will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States. We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary.
Further, the bill sends a clear message to Iran and North Korea that the American people will not tolerate their dangerous and destabilizing behavior. America will continue to work closely with our friends and allies to check those countries’ malignant activities.
I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.