Senators to push for further sanctions against Russia under Trump

Senators in both parties are pledging to push additional sanctions against Russia next year, setting up a potential conflict with the incoming Trump administration. 

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) — the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee — said Thursday that he will introduce legislation in January that includes “comprehensive enhanced sanctions” over Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election and ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

“The executive branch has acted, but it is imperative the legislative branch now pick up the ball and move it forward. Congressional sanctions can complement and strengthen these new executive sanctions,” he said.  

Cardin will also introduce a separate bill that would establish an independent commission to probe allegations that Russia interfered in the White House race. 

Democrat Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), who will be the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee in 2017, added separately that stopping Russia from interfering in U.S. elections will take a “sustained response” from the incoming Trump administration and the next Congress. 

The Obama administration announced a slate of economic sanctions on Thursday, targeting two of Russia’s main intelligence organizations — the GRU and the FSB — four individual GRU officers, three companies that provided support to the GRU and six individuals implicated in the campaign over its meddling in the U.S. election.

The White House is also expelling 35 Russian intelligence operatives from the country and closing two facilities used by the Russians.

GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) — two vocal foreign policy hawks — called the moves by the Obama administration “long overdue” but promised to push tougher sanctions next year. 

“We intend to lead the effort in the new Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Russia,” the two senators said in a joint statement on Thursday.  

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also said Thursday that the Obama administration’s announcement was “overdue.” 

Democrats, as well as some Republicans, have publicly fretted for months about Donald Trump’s warmer tone toward Russian President Vladimir Putin and pledged to take a tougher stance against than the incoming administration.  

Concerns about Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick to lead the State Department, as well as allegations that Russia meddled in the presidential election have kept a spotlight on the increasing tensions between Congress and Moscow.  

Lawmakers in both parties back a probe into reports of Russia’s interference. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to start its investigation on the hacking, as part of a larger review of the U.S.-Russia relationship, next month. Alongside its announcement of the sanctions Thursday, the White House said it will deliver a report on the matter to Congress in the coming days. 

Trump has repeatedly dismissed reports that the CIA believes Russia meddled in the election to help him win. He told reporters on Wednesday that “I think we ought to get on with our lives” when asked about sanctions. 

Tags Ben Cardin Donald Trump John McCain Lindsey Graham Mark Warner Paul Ryan
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