Democratic senator proposes sanctions against Putin over bounties
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced a proposal on Wednesday to slap sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin over reports that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to target U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
The proposal from Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would impose a visa ban and an asset freeze on Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, as well as other Russian officials involved in the targeting of U.S. troops.
“As more details continue to surface on this despicable Russian campaign, Donald Trump has proven once again that he is incapable of protecting our troops and our country. Congress must again step up and defend our people and institutions from Kremlin aggression,” Menendez said in a statement.
“It would be unconscionable if the Senate let this moment pass. The NDAA should not move forward without consideration of this amendment,” he added.
Menendez is offering his proposal as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a mammoth defense policy bill.
Hundreds of amendments are offered to the defense bill every year but only a handful get a vote, meaning Menendez likely faces an uphill battle if he wants to get his proposal included.
In addition to imposing a visa ban and targeting assets, Menendez’s proposal would also target banks that are tied to Russia’s defense sector and expand sanctions against some Russian oligarchs.
Menendez’s push to get it in the Senate bill comes as Democrats expect to address the issue in the House NDAA.
The New York Times first reported Friday, followed by several other news outlets, that the intelligence community concluded months ago that a unit within the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, secretly offered payments to Taliban-linked militants for attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan last year.
Trump has sought to deflect blame by claiming he was not briefed on the intelligence. Subsequent reports have said the intelligence was included in written materials in the president’s daily briefing.
On Wednesday Trump called reports on the intelligence a “hoax.”
“The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party,” Trump tweeted. “The secret source probably does not even exist, just like the story itself. If the discredited @nytimes has a source, reveal it. Just another HOAX!”