Politics & Government

Graham wants Congress to veto Trump removing Russia sanctions

Worried about President Donald Trump’s continued praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, is joining a group of legislators who want Congress to have the power to block any change in U.S. sanctions of Russia.

Graham is a sponsor of the Russia Sanctions Review Act, a bill that would give the House and Senate a chance to review – and potentially block – any change in the sanctions placed on the Russian government over cyber-espionage activities and the Russian-backed war in Ukraine.

“Russia has done nothing to be rewarded with sanctions relief,” Graham said in a statement. “To provide relief at this time would send the wrong signal to Russia and our allies who face Russian oppression. Sanctions relief must be earned, not given.”

Other senators also sponsoring the act are fellow Republicans John McCain of Arizona, and Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Claire McCaskill of Missouri

The act would require the Trump Administration to notify Congress in advance of sanctions relief for any individuals engaged in “significant malicious cyber-enabled activities” or “contributing to the situation in Ukraine.”

Trump also would have to certify that Russia had ceased its intervention in Ukraine. Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula after Ukraine’s pro-Russian government was overthrown. Russia also continues to support pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s civil war.

Russia also would have to stop any cyberattacks against the United States and its citizens. Intelligence experts think Russia was behind the theft and release of emails from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. That attack, intelligence leaders concluded, was launched with the goal of getting Trump elected instead of Clinton.

The act would require the president to wait 120 days for Congress to review any sanctions relief. Relief only could be granted if Congress does not pass a joint resolution of disapproval.

The outgoing Obama Administration imposed sanctions in such a way that they would be legally and politically difficult to undo. Meanwhile, congressional committees continue to investigate Russian hacking activities, including one panel co-chaired by Graham.