Trump is put in place by Congress

Sanc­tions signed into law

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Roberta Ramp­ton and Pa­tri­cia Zengerle

US PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump grudg­ingly signed into law new sanc­tions against Rus­sia on Wed­nes­day, a move Moscow said amounted to a full-scale trade war and an end to hopes for bet­ter ties with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Congress over­whelm­ingly ap­proved the leg­is­la­tion last week, pass­ing a mea­sure that con­flicts with the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent’s de­sire to im­prove re­la­tions with Moscow. While Trump signed the bill, he crit­i­cised it as in­fring­ing on his pow­ers to shape for­eign pol­icy and said he could make “far bet­ter deals” with gov­ern­ments than Congress could.

Rus­sian Prime Min­is­ter Dmitry Medvedev called the sanc­tions tan­ta­mount to a “full-scale trade war”, adding in a Face­book post that they showed the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had demon­strated “ut­ter pow­er­less­ness”.

“The hope that our re­la­tions with the new Amer­i­can ad­min­is­tra­tion would im­prove is fin­ished,” he wrote.

Trump’s litany of con­cerns about the sanc­tions, which also af­fect Iran and North Korea, nonethe­less raised the ques­tion of how vig­or­ously Trump will en­force them and pur­sue ac­tion against Rus­sia.

“While I favour tough mea­sures to pun­ish and de­ter ag­gres­sive and desta­bil­is­ing be­hav­iour by Iran, North Korea, and Rus­sia, this leg­is­la­tion is sig­nif­i­cantly flawed,” Trump said in a mes­sage to law­mak­ers.

Hands tied

The new law al­lows Congress to stop any ef­fort by Trump to ease sanc­tions on Rus­sia.

Trump said in a sep­a­rate state­ment that he was sign­ing the mea­sure “for the sake of na­tional unity” even though he saw prob­lems with it.

His hands were tied after the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Congress ap­proved the leg­is­la­tion by such a large mar­gin last week that any pres­i­den­tial veto of the bill would have been over­rid­den. Congress passed the mea­sure to pun­ish Rus­sia over in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and the an­nex­a­tion of Ukraine’s Crimea.

The leg­is­la­tion has pro­voked coun­ter­mea­sures by Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, who said yes­ter­day the US diplo­matic mis­sion in Rus­sia must re­duce its staff by 755 peo­ple. Rus­sia is also seiz­ing two prop­er­ties near Moscow used by Amer­i­can diplo­mats.

Trump has re­peat­edly said he wants to im­prove re­la­tions with Rus­sia. That de­sire has been stymied by US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies’ find­ings that Rus­sia in­ter­fered to help the Repub­li­can against Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton.

US con­gres­sional pan­els and a spe­cial coun­sel are in­ves­ti­gat­ing. Moscow de­nies any med­dling and Trump de­nies any col­lu­sion by his cam­paign.

Repub­li­can House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Speaker Paul Ryan wel­comed the sign­ing, say­ing that it would send “a pow­er­ful mes­sage to our ad­ver­saries that they will be held ac­count­able for their ac­tions.”

But Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham said he was dis­ap­pointed that Trump chose to sign the leg­is­la­tion be­hind closed doors, with­out the fan­fare of tele­vi­sion cam­eras and re­porters present.

“The fact (that) he does this kind of qui­etly I think re­in­forces the nar­ra­tive that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is not re­ally se­ri­ous about push­ing back on Rus­sia,” Gra­ham said.

In his state­ments about the sanc­tions law, Trump com­plained about what he said was con­gres­sional in­fringe­ment on the pres­i­dent’s con­sti­tu­tional power to set for­eign pol­icy. – Reuters

Putin said yes­ter­day the US diplo­matic mis­sion in Rus­sia must re­duce its staff by 755 peo­ple.


US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has al­legedly grudg­ingly signed a sanc­tions bill aimed pre­dom­i­nantly at Rus­sia, Iran and North Korea into law last week on Wed­nes­day.

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