Pelosi: Yanking Russian sanctions 'staggeringly dangerous'

Pelosi: Yanking Russian sanctions 'staggeringly dangerous'
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned Thursday that any move by the Trump administration to roll back sanctions against Russia would fray international alliances and threaten security around the globe.

The Democratic leader said even suggestions from the White House that sanctions might be scaled back could have perilous consequences for NATO and U.S. allies in Europe.

“What the president has to understand is that, when you're president of the United States, your words weigh a ton. So even with your administration putting out [the message], 'We're going to review that,' is really staggeringly dangerous,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

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“These sanctions have to be multilateral and … the fact is, they're necessary,” she added. “So there should be no doubt in anyone's mind as to where we are on the sanctions.”

The comments came shortly before the Trump administration amended sanctions imposed by President Obama on Russia's intelligence agency, known as the Federal Security Service (FSB), in response to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

The Treasury Department’s move will clear the path to allow U.S. technology companies to export some products to Russia.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Thursday downplayed the significance of the change, saying it's merely a technical correction common in the wake of sanctions.

“We’re not easing sanctions,” he said from the White House. “It’s common for Treasury, after sanctions are put in place, to go back and look at specific carve-outs for different industries or products and services. … It is a regular course of action that Treasury does often when sanctions are imposed.”

The assessment by the nation's intelligence agencies that Moscow — directed by President Vladimir Putin — leaked stolen Democratic campaign documents for the purpose of helping Trump win the White House has put U.S.-Russia relations under a particularly bright light since he took office. 

And Trump churned countless headlines last week when he said he might lift sanctions on Russia if the Kremlin cooperates with U.S. anti-terror efforts.

“If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody's doing some really great things?” he told The Wall Street Journal.

The issue has divided the White House and congressional Republicans, with both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he backs Mueller probe after classified briefing Overnight Finance: Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback | Snubs key Dems at ceremony | Senate confirms banking regulator | Lawmakers lash out on Trump auto tariffs Senate Dems’ campaign chief ‘welcomes’ midterm support from Clintons MORE (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree House Dems say they'll oppose immigration floor vote over possible wall funding Dems after briefing: 'No evidence' spy placed in Trump campaign Senate approves new sexual harassment policy for Congress MORE (R-Wis.) backing a harder line than the new commander in chief.

“If there’s any country in the world that doesn’t deserve sanctions relief, it’s Russia," McConnell told Politico last week. 

Many Democrats, including Pelosi, suspect Russia might have compromising information about Trump that could sway his foreign policy decisions. It's an argument Pelosi raised again on Thursday, saying Russia's potential leverage over Trump is much more dangerous than any specific sanctions policy.

“I'm concerned about [lifting sanctions], but as I've said before, I'm more concerned about what … the Russians have on Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems seek to chip away at Trump’s economic record Trump to sign directive to reform commercial space regulations Trump on collision course with Congress on ZTE MORE that he's all of a sudden flirting with the idea that he might lift those sanctions,” Pelosi said.