Some argue Donald Trump’s tough rhetoric toward Russia in announcing the missile strike against Syrian chemical weapons facilities in Damascus late last week belies any perpetual accusations the president is in any way beholden to Russia.
On Sunday, the administration announced new sanctions against Russia for its involvement in alleged chemical weapons use in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
But just as those sanctions were set to take effect today, Trump delayed them. He is not expected to impose them unless Russia engages in another cyber attack or other nefarious maneuver.
United Nations U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday:
“You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. [Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin] will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn’t already, and they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use.”
A senior administration official speaking anonymously to Reuters, however, said Haley “got out ahead of things this time.” Imposing more sanctions immediately, the official said, would interfere with Trump’s efforts to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin on combating jihadist extremism, policing the internet, and other issues.
The White House echoed an earlier statement from Press Secretary Sarah Sanders:
“We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future.”
Democratic lawmakers slammed Trump’s hesitation Monday.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said in a statement:
“Russia is aiding and abetting a mass murderer, and there should be consequences. There shouldn’t be any hesitation to apply new sanctions, which are necessary to send a message to the Kremlin that their reckless support for Assad’s brutality will not be tolerated.”
Top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel (NY), said:
“I am outraged that President Trump pulled back sanctions on Russia for its support of the Assad regime. This sends a message to governments around the world that they can support brutal, criminal behavior without serious consequences.”
Last month, the United States imposed sanctions on 19 Russian individuals and five groups that include Moscow’s intelligence services, for cyber attacks and interfering with the 2016 presidential election. Those sanctions target the Russian nationals special council Robert Mueller charged on February 16 for tampering with our elections, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), and six individuals working for GRU.
In January, President Trump refused to implement Russian sanctions Congress compelled him to sign into law.
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