Trump rips Congress, brags about deal-making prowess in Russian sanctions statement

President Trump is ripping Congress in an unusual statement criticizing the Russian sanctions bill, which he signed into law on Wednesday.

Trump said in two separate statements that while he favored the policy objectives in the legislation overwhelmingly approved by Congress, he believes the new law encroaches on his power. 

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Trump also repeatedly writes that he is a better negotiator than Congress, which he notes has been unable to approve ObamaCare repeal.

"I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars," Trump said in one of the statements. "That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress."

Trump said he was signing the bill despite what he said was its flaws 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," he said. "We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary."

Trump's irritation with the bill appeared focused on his belief that it would make his ability to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders more difficult. 

And he was scathing in his criticism of a Congress controlled by his party.

"Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking," he said. "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 Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President," he said. "This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice."

Despite the problems, he said, "I am signing this bill for the sake of national unity."

“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 said.

The Russia sanctions bill passed with veto-proof majorities, winning approval 98-2 in the Senate and 419-3 in the House.

The new law slaps financial penalties on Moscow and codifies existing sanctions against Russia for its incursion in Ukraine and for interfering in the 2016 election.

But it also limits Trump’s power to lift sanctions or to return diplomatic compounds seized by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian election meddling by giving Congress 30 days to review and potentially block his efforts to lift or relax sanctions on Russia.

The president’s eagerness to reset relations with Moscow has been met with alarm from members of both parties at a time when the House and Senate are investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump campaign officials participated in that effort.

There was some speculation that Trump might use his first veto on the bill, but instead he signed it into law while detailing his many problems with it.

“Since this bill was first introduced, I have expressed my concerns to Congress about the many ways it improperly encroaches on Executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies,” Trump said in his statement.

Trump said his administration worked with Congress to make the bill better and that the final product reflects input from European allies and U.S. businesses that had expressed reservations with it.

“Still, the bill remains seriously flawed — particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate,” Trump said.  

In a second statement, Trump said “the Congress included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions” in the bill.

Trump argued that the law would “displace the President's exclusive constitutional authority to recognize foreign governments.” Trump also said the waiting periods enacted by Congress “do not satisfy the requirements for changing the law” under the U.S. Constitution.

“I nevertheless expect to honor the bill's extended waiting periods to ensure that the Congress will have a full opportunity to avail itself of the bill's review procedures,” Trump said.

Here's Trump's full political statement

Statement by President Donald J. Trump on Signing the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act”

Today, I signed into law the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” which enacts new sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.  I favor tough measures to punish and deter bad behavior by the rogue regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang.  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.

That is why, since taking office, I have enacted tough new sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and shored up existing sanctions on Russia.

Since this bill was first introduced, I have expressed my concerns to Congress about the many ways it improperly encroaches on Executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies.

My Administration has attempted to work with Congress to make this bill better.  We have made progress and improved the language to give the Treasury Department greater flexibility in granting routine licenses to American businesses, people, and companies.  The improved language also reflects feedback from our European allies – who have been steadfast partners on Russia sanctions – regarding the energy sanctions provided for in the legislation.  The new language also ensures our agencies can delay sanctions on the intelligence and defense sectors, because those sanctions could negatively affect American companies and those of our allies.

Still, the bill remains seriously flawed – particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate.  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 Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President.  This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice.

Yet 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.  We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary.

Further, the bill sends a clear message to Iran and North Korea that the American people will not tolerate their dangerous and destabilizing behavior.  America will continue to work closely with our friends and allies to check those countries’ malignant activities.

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.

Here is Trump's signing statement on the sanctions bill.

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

      Today, I have signed into law H.R. 3364, the "Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act."  While I favor tough measures to punish and deter aggressive and destabilizing behavior by Iran, North Korea, and Russia, this legislation is significantly flawed.

 

      In its haste to pass this legislation, the Congress included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions.  For instance, although I share the policy views of sections 253 and 257, those provisions purport to displace the President's exclusive constitutional authority to recognize foreign governments, including their territorial bounds, in conflict with the Supreme Court's recent decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry.

 

      Additionally, section 216 seeks to grant the Congress the ability to change the law outside the constitutionally required process.  The bill prescribes a review period that precludes the President from taking certain actions.  Certain provisions in section 216, however, conflict with the Supreme Court's decision in INS v. Chadha, because they purport to allow the Congress to extend the review period through procedures that do not satisfy the requirements for changing the law under Article I, section 7 of the Constitution.  I nevertheless expect to honor the bill's extended waiting periods to ensure that the Congress will have a full opportunity to avail itself of the bill's review procedures.

 

      Further, certain provisions, such as sections 254 and 257, purport to direct my subordinates in the executive branch to undertake certain diplomatic initiatives, in contravention of the President's exclusive constitutional authority to determine the time, scope, and objectives of international negotiations.  And other provisions, such as sections 104, 107, 222, 224, 227, 228, and 234, would require me to deny certain individuals entry into the United States, without an exception for the President's responsibility to receive ambassadors under Article II, section 3 of the Constitution.  My Administration will give careful and respectful consideration to the preferences expressed by the Congress in these various provisions and will implement them in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations.

 

      Finally, my Administration particularly expects the Congress to refrain from using this flawed bill to hinder our important work with European allies to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, and from using it to hinder our efforts to address any unintended consequences it may have for American businesses, our friends, or our allies.

 

                                  DONALD J. TRUMP

THE WHITE HOUSE,

    August 2, 2017.