Senate overwhelmingly votes to impose new sanctions on Russia over election meddling

Frederick Owens
June 19, 2017

The amendment to the underlying Iran sanctions bill maintains and expands sanctions against the government of Russian Federation in response to the violation of the territorial integrity of the Ukraine and Crimea, its brazen cyber-attacks and interference in elections, and its continuing aggression in Syria, said officials.

However, aides in both the Senate and the House said they expected support for the bill would be strong enough to override a Trump veto if necessary. It also imposes new sanctions in a number of categories, including those "conducting malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government" and "supplying weapons to the Assad regime".

The underlying bill imposed new sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program and support for worldwide terrorism.

"“By codifying existing sanctions and requiring Congressional review of any decision to weaken or lift them, we are ensuring that the United States continues to punish President [Vladimir] Putin for his reckless and destabilizing actions", Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a statement, as cited by Reuters. Two Obama era State Department officials were alarmed at the review and told Senators Ben Cardin and Lindsey Graham that it appeared the president wanted to lift sanctions on Russian Federation.

Earlier this month, Yahoo News reported that the Trump administration secretly tried to eliminate Russia's economic sanctions.

The investigation into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 USA election took another turn, as the Washington Post reported Wednesday that Donald Trump is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible obstruction of justice.

The new Russian Federation sanctions also requires the White House to get a congressional review if it attempts to relax, suspend or terminate Russian Federation sanctions.

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To become law, the legislation still must pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump.

"However, we can't accept the threat of illegal and extraterritorial sanctions against European companies", they said.

"We've been interacting with the state department and, again, we'll see what happens", he told reporters.

Corker told reporters that "I only have talked a little bit with" Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who testified twice this week that the White House would prefer "flexibility" to adjust Russian Federation sanctions as needed.

The sanctions come on the back of numerous rounds of other punitive measures taken by the USA and the European Union in response to Russia's military intervention in Ukraine and its annexation of the country's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. They blocked US companies such as Exxon Mobil, where Tillerson was chairman, from investing in such projects. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) and other lawmakers.

A senior Russian official responded to the vote saying if the sanctions are approved, Russia will not let them go "unanswered".

President Trump and Moscow have always denied any collusion. Putin seems content to sit back and watch as America tears itself apart with partisan witch hunts and hatred of the president. Also included in the bill is an amendment strengthening sanctions for Russian officials who support cyberattacks against the USA and its allies.

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