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Trump administration tells Congress Moscow has triggered new sanctions

Trump administration tells Congress Moscow has triggered new sanctions
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The Trump administration has informed Congress that Russia has not complied with a series of requirements necessary for Moscow to evade a second round of U.S. sanctions over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain. 

The development, announced by the State Department and House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, means that a new tranche of sanctions on Russia will be automatically triggered under a 1991 law on the elimination of chemical and biological weapons — likely further deteriorating relations with Russia at a time of high tensions.

In a statement, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the department is "consulting with Congress regarding next steps" as required under the law. 

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Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceElection Countdown: Florida braces for volatile recount | Counties race to finish machine recount | Trump ramps up attacks | Abrams files new lawsuit in Georgia | 2020 to be new headache for Schumer | Why California counts its ballots so slowly Republicans jockey for top GOP spot on House Foreign Affairs Committee Russia says it would treat new sanctions as ‘illegal’ MORE (R-Calif.) said the administration has not given Congress details on what the sanctions would entail or a timeline on when they would be imposed, which he criticized as “unacceptable.”

“No one should be surprised that Vladimir Putin refuses to swear off future use of weapons-grade nerve agents. It is unacceptable that the administration lacks a plan — or even a timeline — for action on the second round of mandatory sanctions required by U.S. law,” Royce, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, said in a statement Tuesday. 

“In recent years, Russia has engaged in a pattern of brazen poisonings — including the March 14 nerve attack carried out on the soil of the United Kingdom,” Royce said. “The Trump administration needs to act quickly to uphold its own determination. Hesitation only encourages more Russian aggression.” 

Under pressure from Congress, the Trump administration in August announced new sanctions on Russia over the use of a military-grade nerve agent in an unsuccessful assassination plot against ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last March.

The most damaging sanctions, imposed under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, blocked exports of sensitive national security goods to Russia.

A second round of sanctions is automatically triggered three months later if the administration does not certify to Congress that Russia meets a series of strict conditions — including showing it is no longer using biological or chemical weapons in violation of international law and allowing United Nations inspections of its facilities to prove it. 

The Trump administration faced a deadline on Tuesday to notify Congress as to whether Moscow had met the conditions under the law. 

Leading up to the Nov. 6 deadline, it was widely expected that Moscow, which has denied any involvement in the Skripal poisoning, would not meet the conditions under the law.

The administration is required to choose three from a group of six categories of sanctions under the law. The options include further restrictions on U.S. exports to Russia; restrictions on imports; a suspension of diplomatic relations with Moscow; a suspension of air travel to and from the United States by Russian government-owned air carriers; and sanctions preventing Russia from receiving multilateral development bank assistance or U.S. bank loans. 

"The Department is consulting with Congress regarding next steps as required 90 days after the initial determination on August 6, 2018," Nauert said Tuesday. "We intend to proceed in accordance with the terms of the CBW Act, which directs the implementation of additional sanctions." 

It will likely take several weeks for the new sanctions to go into effect after the details are announced, as was the case when officials disclosed the first round of penalties in August.

The developments are likely to exacerbate tensions between the U.S. and Moscow, which are already running high as a result of President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE’s decision to withdraw from a decades-old nuclear arms pact with Russia and Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election.

Relations with Russia have deteriorated despite Trump’s wish to build better ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The two leaders were expected to meet on the sidelines of the Armistice Day celebrations in Paris on Nov. 11, but Trump cast doubt on that Monday, saying instead they would meet at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina in late November.