Senators introduce bill to slap 'crushing' new sanctions on Russia

Senators introduce bill to slap 'crushing' new sanctions on Russia
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators is introducing legislation to impose "crushing" new financial penalties on Russia.

The bill would slap new sanctions on Moscow, require two-thirds Senate approval if President TrumpDonald John TrumpMattis defends reversing his stance on Trump's 'Space Force' Pelosi: Trump engages in racism 'constantly' Tom Steyer: Pelosi is wrong about Trump impeachment push MORE wanted to withdraw from NATO and force the State Department to determine if Russia is a state sponsor of terrorism.

GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: DOJ official was 'unethical' in investigating Trump campaign because his wife worked for Fusion GPS Sunday shows preview: Virginia lawmakers talk Charlottesville, anniversary protests Republicans and Democrats alike face troubling signals from voters MORE (S.C.) said current U.S. sanctions against Russia haven't stopped Moscow from trying to meddle in the November midterm elections, despite Congress passing new legislation last year.

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“Our goal is to change the status quo and impose crushing sanctions and other measures against [President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia until he ceases and desists meddling in the US electoral process, halts cyber-attacks on US infrastructure, removes Russia from Ukraine, and ceases efforts to create chaos in Syria," he said in a statement.

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press Booming economy has Trump taking a well-deserved victory lap Administration should use its leverage to get Egypt to improve its human rights record MORE (D-N.J.) added that the bill is "the next step in tightening the screws on the Kremlin."

Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenate GOP campaign arm asking Trump to endorse McSally in Arizona: report When it comes to drone tech, wildfire officials need the rights tools for the job Rubio slams Google over plans to unveil censored Chinese search engine MORE (R-Colo.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDems ask Mnuchin to probe Russian investment in state election tech Hillicon Valley: Trump officials deliver show of force on election security | Apple hits trillion | How fake Facebook groups manipulated real activists | Senate group seeks new Russia sanctions Senators introduce bill to slap 'crushing' new sanctions on Russia MORE (D-Md.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Memo: Charlottesville anniversary puts Trump and race under microscope Man arrested for threatening ICE agents on Twitter Planned Parenthood launches six-figure Supreme Court ad campaign MORE (R-Ariz.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenHillicon Valley: Trump officials deliver show of force on election security | Apple hits trillion | How fake Facebook groups manipulated real activists | Senate group seeks new Russia sanctions Senators introduce bill to slap 'crushing' new sanctions on Russia Hillicon Valley: Manafort trial is Mueller's first courtroom test | Dem eyes options for tech crackdown | Activist publishes 11K Wikileaks Twitter messages | Trump, officials huddle on election security | How the 'Abolish ICE' hashtag caught fire MORE (D-N.H.) are also supporting the legislation.

It comes as lawmakers are growingly increasingly concerned that Russia will try to interfere in the 2018 elections, where control of Congress hangs in the balance.

The Daily Beast reported last month that Russian intelligence agents targeted Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillUS suspected Russia was behind 2016 cyberattacks against Swedish news organizations: report GOP leaders: No talk of inviting Russia delegation to Capitol McCaskill corrects GOP 'Yale law grad' opponent over definition of truck MORE (D-Mo.) with an attempted breach ahead of the November elections.

But senators have struggled to coalesce behind what, if any, legislation Congress should pass in the lead-up to the election. And resolutions that would give the Senate's support to the intelligence community's finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 election have routinely been blocked.

The Graham-Menendez bill is the broadest of the bills that are currently being mulled by lawmakers. Graham previously told reporters he would include everything but "the kitchen sink."

The new financial penalties would target political figures, oligarchs, family members and others that "facilitate illicit and corrupt activities" on behalf of Putin.

It would also impose new sanctions on transactions tied to investments in state-owned energy projects,  transactions tied to new Russian debt, and people with the capacity or ability to support or carry out a "malicious" cyber act.

"Until Putin pays a serious price for his actions, these attacks on our democracy will only grow. This bill would build on the strongest sanctions ever imposed on the Putin regime for its assault on democratic institutions, violation of international treaties, and siege on open societies through cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns," McCain said in a statement.

The legislation would also create a State Department office of cyberspace and the digital economy, create a national fusion center to respond to hybrid threats and reauthorize the countering Russia influence fund.

It would also fold in legislation that allows the Justice Department to pursue charges for those caught hacking a voting system that is used in a federal election and require a report on the net worth and assets of Putin.