Giving Russian strongman Vladimir Putin even more to smile about, Donald Trump appears to be delaying if not blowing off an act of Congress designed to force him to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 election and other hostile activities.
Under pressure from a bipartisan group of Congresspeople in August, Trump reluctantly signed into law a bill which takes away his power to arbitrarily lift sanctions placed on Russia under President Obama, and directs his administration to work with allies to strengthen efforts to punish Russia, including halting investment in new energy projects funded by Russian interests.
The law is unusual in that it ties the president’s hands-on foreign policy, notes the Los Angeles Times.
Russia complained the law was a form of a trade war, according to Reuters.
Trump signed the bill because he knew that Congress had the bipartisan votes to override his veto, but he also made clear his displeasure.
“While I favor tough measures to publish and deter aggressive and destabilizing behavior by Iran, North Korea, and Russia, this legislation is significantly flawed,” said the president.
Trump said in a statement at the time of the signing that he believes the new law is “clearly unconstitutional,” but said that he did “expect to honor” key provisions.
Now the October 1 deadline to act on some of those provisions has come and gone, and Trump has not acted on anything.
“The delay calls into questions the Trump’s administration’s commitment to the sanctions bill which was signed into law more than two months ago, following months of public debate and negotiations in Congress,” Senators John McCain (R-Az) and Ben Cardin (D-Md), said in a joint statement yesterday. “They had plenty of time to get their act together.”
By October 1, Trump and his administration were required to issue regulations that specify people in the Russian government who operated the defense and intelligence sectors.
Trump now refusing to implement the Russia Sanctions LAW
— DCResisterBee? (@DC_Resister_Bee) October 8, 2017
The Treasury and State Departments were also supposed to issue guidance as to their plans for imposing the measures called for by law.
An aide to the White House’s National Security Council has told Senators they are “getting to” the sanctions, and that it will happen, according to a report by Mother Jones.
McCain and Cardin sent the White House a letter on September 28 asking for information on the implementation plans but never got any response from the president or his staff.
“In addition to the administration’s lack of responsiveness on this deadline,” McCain and Cardin said in their joint statement, “there does not appear to be a significant diplomatic effort to engage our allies in Europe and lead an effort to increase pressure on Moscow.”
“Congressional intent was clear,” adds the joint statement, “reflected in the overwhelming bipartisan majority in favor of the legislation.”
The law was passed by Republicans and Democrats who have listened to Trump praise Putin repeatedly and were aware the president was threatening to lift the Obama sanctions unilaterally.
There was also concern Trump is taking it easy on Putin because he colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, which is the subject of multiple investigations.
This was supposed to force the president to act but it is clear once again that the president feels no necessity to obey the law, listen to public opinion or even respond to the majority view of the Congress, where he has had so little luck passing his legislative agenda
Trump is bending the law once again, if not breaking it, and by claiming parts of the law are unconstitutional is acting not only as the chief executive but also as judge and jury.
As president, Trump has shown he lacks integrity and doesn’t care about obeying the letter of the law, as long as he can reward his loyal pals and play to his fellow authoritarian leaders – like Putin – to run the country as a dictatorship instead of a democracy.