President Trump finally signed the Russia sanctions bill on Wednesday — and immediately complained about it.
After days of delays, Trump put his name on a bill Congress passed with nearly unanimous support to punish Russia for its election meddling.
The Kremlin was no happier about the decision than Trump, likening the bill’s approval to the launch of a “full-scale trade war.”
Trump signed the bill in the morning and issued a scathing statement minutes later blasting it as “significantly flawed” — mostly because it limits his power.
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“By limiting the executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people,” Trump’s statement said.
“I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.”
He said he chose to sign the papers anyway “for the sake of national unity.”
The House and Senate both passed the bill last week with nearly complete bipartisan support. As Congress has stalled on most major legislation so far under Trump, this was one of the few bills to draw strong approval from both parties. The wall of support made clear that a potential Trump veto would not stand.
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The bill punishes Russia for its election interference, and also slaps sanctions on North Korea and Iran for their human rights violations. It includes provisions restricting Trump from lifting the sanctions without congressional support.
Trump pushed back on early attempts to pass the bill, while he continued shrugging off U.S. intelligence findings about Russia attacking the election to help his campaign. While Trump has blasted his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for doing “nothing” about Russia’s actions, Trump never announced his own intentions to repudiate the Kremlin.
His administration, however, did throw sanctions on Russia in June as retaliation for its aggressive military actions in Ukraine.
After Congress passed the bill, Russian President Vladimir Putin fired back by cutting 755 U.S. diplomatic jobs in his country, reducing the American staff to only a few hundred members.
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The Kremlin kept complaining on Wednesday, saying Trump’s signing showed his “utter powerlessness” and inability to get along with Russia.
“The hope that our relations with the new American administration would improve is finished,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in a statement.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “retaliatory measures already have been taken,” and there would be no further punishments on the United States over the legislation.
Trump waited nearly a week to sign the bill, and he did so only after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made clear that neither of them was happy about it.
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“The action by the Congress to put these sanctions in place and the way they did, neither the President nor I were very happy about that,” Tillerson told reporters on Tuesday.
Tillerson has been as hesitant as Trump to take action against Russia. Politico reported Wednesday that he has been sitting on nearly $ 80 million reserved for the State Department to combat cyberattacks from Russia, as well as terrorist organizations. Three-quarters of that cash will expire if Tillerson does not accept it by Sept. 30.
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