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 TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report 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 GrahamWhy Ken Cuccinelli should be Trump's choice for DHS Ten post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators GOP senators double down on demand for Clinton email probe documents 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) MenendezWe can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange MORE (D-N.J.) added that the bill is "the next step in tightening the screws on the Kremlin."

Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerCain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Obama-era diplomat launches Colorado Senate bid, would be first openly gay male senator MORE (R-Colo.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Senate Dem: Trump 'using immigrants as pawns' Bottom Line MORE (D-Md.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Democrats need a 'celebrity' candidate — and it's not Biden or Sanders Juan Williams: The high price of working for Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne Shaheen Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 William Barr is right to investigate FBI actions during 2016 campaign Trolling of Bill Barr shows how language is twisted to politics 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 McCaskillBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate 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.