Trump won't follow through on Congressional sanctions on Russia

Despite Congress passing stiff new sanctions on Russia last year, the president has yet to implement them

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published January 30, 2018 7:59AM (EST)

Donald Trump; Vladimir Putin (Getty/Mikhail Klimentyev)
Donald Trump; Vladimir Putin (Getty/Mikhail Klimentyev)

President Donald Trump is refusing to implement harsh sanctions against Russia that were overwhelmingly passed by Congress last year.

The Russian sanctions bill, which was passed in July with only five no votes from both the Senate and House of Representatives, mandated that entities doing "significant" business with Russian defense and intelligence agencies should suffer penalties unless they informed Congress that they were "substantially reducing" that business activity, according to Politico. There was already good reason to worry that Trump wouldn't want to implement those sanctions — he only signed the bill reluctantly and did so primarily because it would have been passed over his objections if he had vetoed it — and it has now become clear that the administration has decided not to implement it at all.

Instead, the administration has claimed that the measure is already "serving as a deterrent" and has argued that entities doing significant business with Russia "have been put on notice, both publicly and privately, including by the highest-level State Department and other U.S. government officials where appropriate, that significant transactions with listed Russian entities will result in sanctions." The administration also claimed that the bill was intended to "press Russia to address our concerns related to its aggression in Ukraine, interference in other nations’ domestic affairs and abuses of human rights."

Pundits on Twitter did not fail to make the connection between the Trump administration's inactivity regarding the Russian sanctions and his seemingly broader pro-Russia policies.

Conveniently left off of that list was the accusation, supported by every major intelligence agency, that Russia also meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Perhaps part of the reason this wasn't included was that CIA Director Mike Pompeo admitted to the BBC earlier this week that there had been no meaningful reduction in Russian attempts to interfere in American and European political processes.

Pompeo even acknowledged that the threat could continue to the 2018 midterm elections. "I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that, but I'm confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election [and] that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won't be great," Pompeo told the BBC.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump Russia Russian Sanctions