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Senators Move to Limit Trump on Russia Sanctions

The U.S. Senate is set to push forward with a plan to limit President Trump’s actions when it comes to Russian sanctions.

The Hill reports:

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced legislation Wednesday setting up a period of congressional oversight before Trump could roll back financial penalties.

The legislation, known as the Russia Sanctions Review Act, would require Trump to notify Congress before he lifts sanctions tied to the invasion of Ukraine or Russia’s meddling in the White House race.

“To provide relief at this time would send the wrong signal to Russia and our allies who face Russian oppression. Sanctions relief must be earned, not given,” said Graham, a frequent GOP critic of the president.

Lawmakers would have 120 days to pass a joint resolution of disapproval blocking Trump from lifting the sanctions. Trump also would not be able to lift sanctions while Congress was reviewing the proposal.

Cardin told reporters on Wednesday that the legislation wasn’t meant to punish Trump, but would help bolster congressional input and understanding of Trump’s policy.

“It’s not an attack against President Trump,” Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said. “This is basically to reestablish our role.”

He compared the legislation to a 2015 bill — which passed the Senate with near unanimous support — to allow lawmakers to review and potentially block the Iran nuclear deal.

McCain added that lifting Russia sanctions would send the “wrong message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“[He] continues to oppress his citizens, murder his political opponents, invade his neighbors, threaten America’s allies, and attempt to undermine our elections,” McCain said.

Under the legislation Trump would also need to certify that Russia had cut support for separatist fighters in Ukraine or stopped actions “intended to undermine” the country’s stability.

Though Trump has gotten bipartisan pushback in the Senate over his friendly attitude toward Moscow, Cardin demurred when asked if the measure would ultimately be able to win over Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), noting it first needed to clear the Foreign Relations panel.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicted to USA Today that the legislation could pass “with 80 or 90 votes.”

The legislation, which was first floated last month, comes as Trump’s warmer tone toward Putin is under a congressional microscope.

The president sparked bipartisan backlash for pushing back against Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s description of Putin as a “killer.”

Top Republicans and Democrats also warned Trump against lifting sanctions after the administration flirted with option late last month.

Asked if lifting some sanction was on the table, top adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News that “all of that is under consideration,” though Trump separately called the speculation premature.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also said last month that he believed the Obama administration was slow to slap financial penalties on Moscow.

“I think sanctions are overdue,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “So I think they should stay.”

Photo credit: Fox News / Screenshot.

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