Faced with a near unanimous message from both parties in Congress, President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed into law a bill that steps up economic sanctions against Russia, which included provisions that would prevent the President from relaxing sanctions put into place by the Obama Administration, in retaliation for Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Mr. Trump held no signing ceremony for the bill, which also included new sanctions against Iran and North Korea. In a written statement, he expressed his displeasure with the details of the measure.
“While I favor tough measures to punish and deter aggressive and destabilizing behavior by Iran, North Korea, and Russia, this legislation is significantly flawed,” the President said.
The last line of the President’s statement drew some interest as well.
“I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress,” Mr. Trump said.
The sanctions plan had been approved 419-3 in the House, and 98-2 in the Senate, making a veto override almost a certainty, if the President had chosen that route.
The reaction was immediately positive from Republicans in the Congress, many of whom see U.S.-Russian relations in a totally different view from the President.
The White House had made clear for weeks that the President was not interested in signing the bill, but he had few options, given the level of support in both parties for the move.
“Russia, North Korea and Iran must be held accountable for their continued acts of aggression,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), the chairman of the House Rules Committee.
“This was a necessary step that we took,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who said he spoke with the President at length about the bill last Friday.
“I think it was long overdue,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russian meddling in 2016.
Warner told reporters he hoped the new law “would send a strong message to Russia that we can’t have interference in our elections going forward.”
“The Republican Congress must not permit the Trump White House to wriggle out of its duty to impose these sanctions for Russia’s brazen assault on our democracy,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“Today we sent a clear message to Moscow that we will not tolerate its attacks on democracy – from interference in our elections to aggression in Ukraine,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).