Dismissing Congress, Trump Gives Russia a Pass

Last July, Congress voted overwhelmingly to increase sanctions on Russia in response to their attempts to influence the 2016 election. There were only five “no” votes in the entire House and Senate. Those sanctions were supposed to take effect yesterday, but the Trump administration simply dismissed them as unnecessary.

The Trump administration informed lawmakers Monday that new Russia sanctions called for in a bipartisan bill passed last year are not necessary yet because the measure is already “serving as a deterrent.”…

The sanctions bill requires the imposition of penalties by Monday against entities doing “significant” business with Moscow’s defense and intelligence sectors, unless Congress is notified that prospective targets are “substantially reducing” that business.

A State Department spokesperson said by email that the administration is “using this legislation as Congress intended to press Russia to address our concerns related to its aggression in Ukraine, interference in other nations’ domestic affairs and abuses of human rights.”

As is pointed out above, the legislation gave the president some wiggle room with that “unless” clause. But here is where the fact that this administration constantly lies comes into play. Unless I’ve missed something, I see no evidence that Russia has been pressed to do anything differently when it comes to their aggression in Ukraine, interference in other nations’ domestic affairs, or abuses of human rights. But we’re supposed to believe the White House that the mere threat of sanctions is serving as some kind of deterrent? That strains credulity beyond redemption.

To demonstrate that the White House never took this bill seriously, it also required the administration to produce a list of oligarchs linked to President Putin. Here’s how they put that one together:

The striking similarity between a newly released Treasury Department report of Russian oligarchs and a 2017 list of wealthy Russians published in Forbes magazine is no coincidence.

On Tuesday, a Treasury Department spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the unclassified annex of the report was derived from Forbes’ ranking of the “200 richest businessmen in Russia 2017.”

The revelation is likely to invite criticisms of the thoroughness of the Treasury Department’s report and reinforce the notion that the list is primarily a who’s who of the Russian elite rather than an official accounting of Kremlin-linked political corruption as some US lawmakers intended.

This all reminds me of those times when Trump claimed to have asked Putin directly whether or not Russia interfered in the U.S. election. According to the president, Putin said “no” and we should take him at his word. Or how about that time that Trump said the two leaders would form a joint cyber-security unit?

One would think that an American president that is being investigated for colluding with Russia would be smart enough not to make it look so obvious. But this guy who calls himself a “stable genius” clearly isn’t the brightest bulb.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .