Trump Signs Russia Sanctions Bill, with "Concerns"

So, as you may recall, the House and Senate both passed (with veto-proof majorities) legislation to impose sanctions on Russia, with a stipulation that Donald Trump could not ease those sanctions without Congressional authority.

In response to that legislation, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened retaliation on the United States, and, as the bill passed out of Congress and onto the president's desk for signature, Russia seized two U.S. properties in Moscow and ordered the U.S. embassy to reduce its staff by September.

After some dithering, Trump finally signed the bill today, but added a signing statement noting his "concerns."
Trump has signed the Russia sanctions bill Congress forced on him, and is adding a statement saying the administration will carry out the law but with reservations about its impact and the constitutionality of some provisions.

The so-called signing statement, obtained by Bloomberg, lays out Trump's concerns about the legislation, including that it encroaches on presidential authority and may hurt U.S. ability to work with allies.

Trump's statement doesn't signal any intent to bypass or circumvent aspects of the law. Instead, the president indicates he intends for his administration to carry out the law in a way consistent with his constitutional authority, language that leaves open some room for interpretation of how the law is executed.
So, three things:

1. In another nod to his campaign to rewrite the U.S. presidency as an authoritarian dictatorship, Trump is grousing about Congress encroaching "on presidential authority," as though Congress doesn't have the right and the obligation to provide checks and balances on presidential authority.

2. The objection that this bill "may hurt U.S. ability to work with allies" is really something, given that Trump's fealty to Putin (among other alienating policies) has definitely hurt the nation's relationship with key allies, but Trump hasn't seemed too concerned about that.

3. It's not even clear how Trump will simultaneously comply with the law as written and "carry out the law in a way consistent with his constitutional authority," which he clearly views as mutually exclusive ways of interpreting the law.

So who knows where we really are at the moment. Except for this: Congress is on break, and Putin has probably already given orders to escalate the retaliatory measures.

It is unlikely that Putin will have viewed Trump's signing statement detailing his reservations sufficient action from his stooge, who was supposed to intercede to prevent the sanctions altogether.

And the Trump administration is certainly aware of that. Also today, in an indication of how large Russia looms over White House policy, it was reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "is resisting the pleas of State Department officials to spend nearly $80 million allocated by Congress for fighting terrorist propaganda and Russian disinformation," despite the fact that $60 million of it "will expire on Sept. 30 if not transferred to State by then."

There are reportedly multiple reasons for Tillerson's intransigence, but among them, is fear of provoking Russia: "One Tillerson aide, R.C. Hammond, suggested the money is unwelcome because any extra funding for programs to counter Russian media influence would anger Moscow, according to a former senior State Department official."

A couple of perfect and terrifying examples of why it's a bad idea to ratify election results even when the election is known to have been compromised by the government of a foreign adversary, who will expect the "winner" to serve as its puppet.

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