- The Trump administration indicated on Monday that it would not seek to impose new sanctions against Russian operatives for the country’s meddling in the 2016 US election.
- President Donald Trump signed into law in August a bill designed to curb billions of dollars in Russian defense sales. The US State Department says the effects of that law are “beginning to become apparent,” and thus new sanctions against the Kremlin “will not need to be imposed.”
- Political observers viewed the move as a sign Trump may be unwilling to punish Russia’s US-election meddling. He has publicly expressed doubt about the activity, instead viewing investigations around the meddling as a domestic attempt to delegitimize his presidency.
The Trump administration has indicated it will not seek new sanctions against Russia for its meddling in the 2016 US election, a State Department spokesperson said Monday.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said a bill President Donald Trump signed into law in August that called for a report identifying wealthy Russians linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin was enough to steer away from Russia billions of dollars in defense sales.
Nauert said additional sanctions on specific individuals and groups associated with the Kremlin for Russian interference in the 2016 US election “will not need to be imposed.”
Nauert added that the effects of the law targeting Russian defense sales were “beginning to become apparent,” without citing specifics. Further details were included in a classified report delivered to Congress, the State Department said.
Trump called the bill “seriously flawed” when he reluctantly signed it into law last summer after it passed Congress with broad bipartisan support, including a 98-2 vote in the Senate. Congress had given the Trump administration until January 29 to submit key reports under that law.
Russia preemptively railed against the threat of new US sanctions earlier Monday, calling it a “direct and obvious attempt” to meddle in Russia’s upcoming presidential election. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the US report on rich Russians linked to Putin “will be analyzed in Moscow, so that our interests and the interests of our companies are guaranteed.”
Political observers viewed Trump’s moves on Monday as a test of his willingness to punish Russia for its wide-ranging activities designed to disrupt the 2016 US presidential election. Intelligence agencies concluded that Russia executed an influence campaign designed in part to boost Trump and hamstring his then-Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
Those activities are the subject of major investigations being conducted by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and several congressional committees.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the Russia investigation in public and in private – at points calling it a “witch hunt” and a Democratic Party “excuse” for losing the 2016 election. He has also described the Russia probe as a “cloud” over his presidency.
Those criticisms took on new significance amid partisan fighting over a secret memo that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to release on Monday, and after a top FBI official ridiculed by Trump was reportedly forced out of the bureau.