US Senate passes Russian sanctions amendment

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said this week that he was wary of Congress taking actions that could interfere with the administration's efforts to improve relations with Russian Federation. He asked lawmakers "to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation".

President Trump had said in January he would be open to lifting sanctions on Moscow if they assisted the United States fight extremism and Terrorism.

In a statement, Sanders said that he opposed the bill not because of the new Russian Federation sanctions, which he supports, but because of the additional sanctions against Iran that were also part of the bill. So the White House would have to reject stricter punishments against Iran, which it favors, in order to derail the parts of the legislation it may object to.

Mike Crapo, joining with a bipartsan group of senators, is proposing a Russia sanctions bill that expands and strengthens sanctions on the Russian Federation. The Bill on Iran is due to come up for a vote as soon as this week.

In addition to Russia's cyber-attacks that helped it interfere in the U.S. elections, the reasons for tightening sanctions include responding to Russia's violation of Ukraine's and Crimea's territorial integrity, and its continuing aggression in Syria. The State Department has said that talks are ongoing with Russian Federation over the possible return of the compounds, underscoring the Trump administration's interest in securing more cooperation from Moscow in ending the Syrian civil war. The amendment was crafted by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), and Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

At the same time, he also said he doesn't want to preemptively shut down a potentially productive conversation.

But Corker said he conferred with the administration in fashioning the amendment. Congressional committees and the FBI are investigating the Russian interference and whether there was any collusion with Trump's campaign.

The legislation would also restrict the White House from easing sanctions in the future without congressional approval. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is conducting a separate probe.

Broad new sanctions would be imposed on Russia's mining, metals, shipping and railways sectors. News reports the sanctions target Russian individuals who give weapons to the Assad regime, violate human rights, or are involved in the defense and intelligence industries.

They also agreed, by 97-2, to set up a process by which Congress can block any attempt by President Trump to scale back those sanctions. The measure is widely expected to pass Congress.

The investigations underway in the House and the Senate, and by a Justice Department special counsel, are pursuing questions of whether Trump's former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, discussed with the Russian ambassador the possibility of reversing sanctions that Obama imposed in the last days of his administration.

"Democrats and Republicans are joining together to warn the president he can not lift sanctions without our approval", the NY senator said.

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