Under mounting domestic pressure, President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed into law a legislation that imposes tough sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea and limits his ability to lift the curbs unilaterally. “I favour tough measures to punish and deter bad behaviour 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 destabilisation,” Trump said in a statement after he signed the ‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’.
The bill sanctions Russia — citing its cyberhacking as well as aggression in Ukraine and Syria — while also slapping new sanctions on North Korea and Iran. The legislation limits the ability of the president to lift the sanctions unilaterally. The signing of the bill put to rest questions about whether Trump would support the legislation passed overwhelmingly by Congress last week while he still excoriated the measure as “significantly flawed.”
Trump said the bill was 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 US to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together,” he argued.
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Yet despite its problems, Trump said, he is signing the 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,” said the US president.
The sanctions targets the Russian energy sector, giving the US the ability to sanction companies involved in developing Russian pipelines, and placing curbs on some Russian weapons exporters.
The sanctions seek to penalise the Kremlin for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election — which Trump won — and Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
In his signing statement, Trump alleged that in its haste to pass this legislation, the Congress included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions.
The bill prescribes a review period that precludes the president from taking certain actions, he asserted.
After Trump’s signing of the bill, Senator Rob Portman said by doing so the US made important progress toward holding Russia, Iran, and North Korea accountable for their aggressive and destabilising behaviour. “I am pleased President Trump signed this legislation, which includes my priorities to counter Russian propaganda and disinformation, into law,” he said.
These countries actively undermine US allies and interests and this legislation sends a clear signal that their actions have consequences and that the US stands with its allies around the world, he added. “The important sanctions and policies included in this law will also provide constructive guidance to the administration as it continues to formulate its foreign policy. The US must demonstrate a firm and principled approach to Russia, Iran, and North Korea, and this law helps us do just that,” Portman said.