A bipartisan bill was signed by President Trump to replace the new sanctions on Russia. The sanctions, aimed at punishing Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, limit the president’s power to lift the sanctions without congressional approval and were initially resisted by the administration.
One of the statements which was released on Wednesday morning by the White House revealed that Trump said he supports the law's efforts to crack down on the actions of Iran, North Korea and Russia. However, the White House protested what it sees as congressional violation on the president’s power in foreign affairs.
Trump emphasized in one of the statement that the Congress included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions due to the haste that came with passing the legislation. President Trump also pointed out that his administration expects the Congress to refrain from using the flawed bill to hinder the important work with European allies to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, and from using it to hinder the administration efforts to address any unintended consequences it may have for American businesses, friends, or allies.
The other statement that the President issued was on his administration’s foreign policy and the input on the legislation. Trump said that despite its problems, he had signed the bill for the sake of national unity." The statement characterized the governments of Iran and North Korea as rogue regimes, a label he did not apply to the Russian government.
The second statement made it clear that America will not tolerate interference in its democratic process, and that it will side with its allies and friends against Russian subversion and destabilization. Trump also highlighted what he views as congressional overreach.
"The bill remains seriously flawed — particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate. Congress could not even negotiate a health care bill after seven years of talking," Trump said, in reference to congressional Republicans’ latest failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
"I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected," the president continued. "As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.”
Varying comments sprung from Capitol Hill regarding the statements. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, a leading architect of the sanctions bill, told reporters that he was not concerned about Trump’s statement, though he said he had not yet seen it.
Apart from allowing lawmakers to handcuff Trump on any future changes to Russia sanctions, the legislation converts some existing sanctions from executive orders into law, making them more difficult to roll back, and imposes new sanctions focused on Moscow’s reported cyber-meddling in the November election. The legislation’s Iran and North Korea sanctions were broadly popular in both parties and with the Trump administration.
Tillerson said that, “we can’t let it take us off track of trying to restore the relationship” with Russia.
Even as Trump criticized the measure, he added that “I nevertheless expect to honor the bill’s waiting periods to ensure that Congress will have a full opportunity to avail itself of the bill’s review procedures.”
The move by Trump did not satisfy Democratic concerns about Trump signing the statement. Some Republicans who played a key role in the sanctions package raised their own alarms.
The bill enjoyed wide bipartisan support. The House passed the sanctions by a vote of 419-3, and the Senate cleared it 98-2 — making any presidential veto futile and sure to be overridden.