Trump Signs ‘Seriously Flawed’ Russia Sanctions Law, Angry over Limit to Executive Authority

US President Donald J. Trump listens to the reading of the citation before awarding the Medal of Honor to former US Army medic and Vietnam War veteran James McCloughan (not pictured), during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 31 July 2017. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • US President Trump has expectedly signed into law the bill slapping new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
  • He argues he has favored tough measures against America’s adversaries, and has signed the bill for the sake of ‘national unity’.
  • However, Trump has lambasted the US Congress for limiting his executive power in international diplomacy with the new act.
  • In his words, the new law remains ‘seriously flawed’ in terms of both its essence and principles.
  • Trump has cited his business empire as evidence that he can make better international deals than Congress.

US President Donald Trump has reluctantly signed the “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act”, the law with which the US Congress slaps new sanctions on Russia, North Korea, and Iran, and which limits the Chief Executive’s power to ease them.

Last Thursday, the US Senate passed almost unanimously, with 98 votes in favor, and 2 votes against, a bill to slap new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

Earlier last week, the US House of Representatives of the US Congress also approved almost unanimously (419 – 3) the same draft law for new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea, and for empowering the American legislature to block potential sanction easing on Russia by President Donald Trump.

The development has come against the backdrop of an ongoing diplomatic standoff between the US and Russia, and continuing investigations by both houses of the US Congress and the FBI into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US elections and the possible collusion of the Trump team with Moscow.

In addition to sanctions imposed on Moscow by the US, the EU, and other Western governments since 2014 over Russia’s encroachments against Ukraine, namely, the Crimea annexation and the war in Donbass, last December, the US seized two Russian diplomatic compounds on US soil, a measure taken at the end of the Obama Administration over Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 US elections.

In June, the US introduced new sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and Crimea, which Moscow called a “pointless” move.

At the end of last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced countermeasures against the US: the kicking out of 755 US diplomatic missions staff, and the closure of a US compound and a warehouse on Russian soil.

The European Commission, the executive of the European Union, had made it clear it might decide to counteract the new US sanctions against Russia if they affect the business interests of EU companies, while top German officials such as Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries declared the new US sanctions against Russia to be “against international law” – seemingly for affecting the interests of German corporations with controversial joint projects with Russian energy giants – such as the Nord Stream 2 gas transit pipeline project.

‘For the Sake of National Unity’

US President Donald Trump announced in a White House statement on Wednesday that he had signed into law the new US sanctions on Russia, North Korea, and Iran, i.e. the “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act”, while lambasting the US Congress for both its take on the actual sanctions towards Moscow, and the newly introduced limits on his executive power.

Trump was widely expected to sign the sanction law given that his potential presidential veto would have been easily overridden given the almost unanimous votes in favor of the legislation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

In his statement, the US President did remind that since taking office he had enacted new sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and shored up existing sanctions on Russia.

“I favor tough measures to punish and deter bad behavior by the rogue regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang,” he stated.

“I also support making clear that America will not tolerate interference in our democratic process, and that we will side with our allies and friends against Russian subversion and destabilization,” Trump added.

“Despite its problems, I am signing this bill for the sake of national unity.  It represents the will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States… The bill sends a clear message to Iran and North Korea that the American people will not tolerate their dangerous and destabilizing behavior,” the US President noted.

‘Encroaches on Executive Power’

However, his praise for the “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act” ended there, and he criticized harshly the US Congress and the new law on a number of points.

According to Trump, he had been raising his concerns “about the many ways it improperly encroaches on Executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies.”

While acknowledging some improvements on those counts as the bill was being drafted, the US President still deemed it was “seriously flawed”.

“The bill remains seriously flawed – particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate,” Trump declared.

“The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President.  This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice,” he added.

“Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together,“ the US President elaborated.

In the last paragraph of his statement, Trump argued that his success as a businessman meant he would be better at international diplomacy than the US Congress.

“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 declared.

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