President Trump signs ‘seriously flawed’ Russia sanctions bill


President Trump signed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act on Wednesday although he enclosed a signing statement to emphasize that he had a number of reservations about the bill.

His apparent reluctance to affix his signature to the bipartisan measure, which was sent to the White House last Friday, led some to question whether he was considering vetoing the legislation although the overwhelming support in both houses of Congress meant that such a step would have easily been overridden. Ten days ago, the House voted 419-3 in favor of the act which cleared the Senate by 97 votes to two a couple of days later.

The new sanctions aim to punish Russia for its ‘annexation’ of Crimea – although the peninsula voted to split from Ukraine and join Russia following the Obama administration’s staged coup to remove Viktor Yanukovych, the nation’s democratically-elected president, in 2014.

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act is also intended to get back at Moscow for its alleged interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election – although we are still waiting for credible evidence that Moscow did interfere in the electoral process.

The sanctions were also passed to penalize Vladimir Putin for intervening in the Syrian civil war – although Bashar al-Assad formally asked Russia for military assistance, whereas the U.S. was never asked to get involved in the conflict.

In his signing statement, President Trump did acknowledge that some progress had been made after his administration worked with Congress to improve the text, partly to allow for some flexibility and to somewhat ‘placate’ some of Washington’s European allies. However, Mr. Trump did question the constitutionality of some sections of the bill.

“[…] the bill remains seriously flawed particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate,” which could hamper his administration’s efforts to “strike good deals for the American people,” the president explained.

“The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President,” Mr. Trump added referring to the legislators’ decision to prevent any president from lifting or easing sanctions imposed upon Moscow without congressional approval.

Mr. Trump also expressed concern that the punitive measures would bring “China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together.”

However, he added that he took the decision to sign the bill “for the sake of national unity” while acknowledging that the sanctions imposed upon Tehran and Pyongyang sent a clear message that Washington would “not tolerate their dangerous and destabilizing behavior.”

As Scoop reported last Friday, Vladimir Putin did not wait for President Trump to sign the controversial bill to retaliate. Indeed, Moscow announced that hundreds of U.S. diplomats and technical staff would have to leave Russia before September 1.