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McCain Warns Trump He’ll Fight on Lifting Russian Sanctions

John McCain will personally see to it that sanctions against Russia are codified if President Trump does not follow through with continuing them.

The Hill reports:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is urging President Trump not to make a “reckless” move to lift Russian sanctions, warning that he would work in Congress to reinstate the sanctions as law.

“For the sake of America’s national security and that of our allies, I hope President Trump will put an end to this speculation and reject such a reckless course,” McCain said in a statement Friday. “If he does not, I will work with my colleagues to codify sanctions against Russia into law.”

Trump is scheduled to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, the first time the two men will talk on the phone since last week’s inauguration.

Top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News on Friday morning that lifting sanctions on Moscow was “under consideration.”

Any move to lift sanctions would likely spark bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill.

McCain and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) led a group of senators earlier this month in introducing new sanctions against Russia as well as codifying Obama-era penalties.

McCain added Friday that Trump should remember that the previous three administrations had “high hopes” for bettering the U.S.-Russian relationship and failed because “Putin wants to be our enemy.”

“[Trump] should remember that the man on the other end of the line is a murderer and a thug who seeks to undermine American national security interests at every turn,” he added. “For our commander-in-chief to think otherwise would be naïve and dangerous.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) added separately on Friday that he was “deeply concerned” about the possibility that Trump could lift sanctions.

“I would encourage the president to reject this course of action,” he said, adding that lifting sanctions without a change in Russian behavior would send a “dangerous message.”

Trump’s warmer stance toward Moscow has drawn bipartisan criticism throughout the presidential campaign, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) grilling Rex Tillerson, nominated to lead the State Department, over his support for Russia sanctions during his confirmation hearing.

McCain outlined on Friday why he believes Trump should oppose lifting sanctions, including Moscow’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, invading Ukraine, and Putin’s push for NATO to reduce its presence in eastern Europe.

“In just the last three years under Vladimir Putin, Russia has invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, threatened NATO allies, and intervened militarily in Syria, leaving a trail of death, destruction, and broken promises in his wake,” he said.

The U.S. intelligence community has publicly blamed Russia for hacking Democratic groups during the election, leading to damaging leaks. A declassified report showed the intelligence community believes the Kremlin interfered in the election specifically to get Trump elected.

Russian leaders have denied any involvement in the election. Trump dismissed the intelligence community’s conclusions for weeks after the election. He acknowledged earlier this month that Moscow was likely behind the hacks, but emphasized blaming the Democratic groups for not securing their data.

Trump frequently talked on the campaign trail of wanting warmer relations with Russia. His general election opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, was a harsh critic of Putin.

Photo credit: CNN/Screenshot.

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