In July, Congress voted overwhelmingly to impose new economic sanctions on Russia in retaliation for Vladimir Putin’s government attacking U.S. elections last year. In August, Donald Trump, whose opinion on the bill was ignored by both parties grudgingly signed the measure into law.
The expectation was that the administration would honor the provisions of the law and implement the sanctions on schedule by Oct. 1. That hasn’t happened: Trump World still hasn’t implemented the policy.
Politico reports that one of the president’s fiercest intra-party critics, who happens to be the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is running out of patience.
The chief GOP architect of a Russia sanctions package that Congress overwhelmingly approved earlier this year vowed Wednesday to find out why the Trump administration has delayed using its new powers to punish Moscow.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) – an author of the massive sanctions bill that President Donald Trump signed in August – told reporters that “I’m going to get on the phone with someone” within 24 hours to get details on why the administration missed the law’s Oct. 1 deadline to hit certain Russian entities with new penalties.
The GOP senator didn’t specify who, exactly, he intends to call within 24 hours, though in context, I think he meant the officials in the Treasury and State Departments responsible for implementing economic sanctions.
It’s also not altogether clear what Corker intends to do after he finishes that call.
That said, congressional interest in this is at least a step in the right direction. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) told a reporter yesterday that the Trump administration’s foot-dragging on this is “not acceptable” and “against the law.”
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) added yesterday, “The real question is, is this bureaucratic delay or has there been some conscious decision to lay off these sanctions, for example, until the president meets with Mr. Putin later this fall? I don’t know the answer to that. If the president and the White House are consciously and deliberately delaying an action that’s been mandated by Congress on something this important, that’s pretty disturbing.”
Democrats, not surprisingly, are even more engaged. Dems on the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter to the White House this week, demanding a detailed account of how and when Trump administration officials intend to implement the recently passed law on Russia sanctions.
Team Trump will almost certainly ignore the correspondence, but there’s no reason Congress should tolerate open defiance of the law – especially when dealing with a foreign adversary that launched an espionage operation that helped put the American president in office.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told NBC News yesterday that the State Department’s work on Russia sanctions is “undergoing an inter-agency review and will be announced soon.”
I can’t wait.
For his part, Donald Trump hasn’t commented on why the sanctions weren’t implemented on schedule, but he continues to characterize the entire Russia scandal as a “hoax” – a posture that carries with it a series of dangers that undermine domestic security.