On July 25, 2017 members of the House of Representatives voted 419-3 to pass the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act; and on July 27, 2017 the Senate voted to pass it 98-2. [HR 3364] This is about as close to “veto proof” as any bill is likely to get. The President* signed it on August 2, 2017. [Hill] Thus, HR 3364 became PL 115-44.
“Per the legislation, the administration was required to issue guidance by October 1 on how it was implementing the sanctions against Russia. That process includes publishing a list of the people and organizations who will be targeted by the sanctions, which are primarily aimed at Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.” [TDB]
Yes, it’s now October 25, 2017 and what have we heard about those published lists of people and organizations targeted for (among other things) cyber attacks on our election systems and democratic institutions?
About all that’s come from the Oval Office is “we’re working on it,” at the Treasury Department, State Department, and Director of National Intelligence…but that October 1 deadline is in the rear view mirror and members of Congress aren’t getting any answers. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) did the ‘aw shucks’ reaction last Sunday:
“The Trump administration is slow when it comes to Russia. They have a blind spot on Russia I still can’t figure out,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. When asked what Congress could do to force the administration to act, Graham was vague, saying only: “The Congress will have a way to hold the president accountable.” [TDB]
Perhaps the South Carolina Senator can’t figure it out, but it’s getting ever more obvious the President* is singularly unwilling to address anything even remotely critical of Russia and its klepto-dictator Putin. [see also VF] A person might even think PL 115-44 has been sent to Siberia? That “blind spot” doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. [MSNBC]
However, there is some evidence the administration is aware of the requirements of the sanctions bill, there simply isn’t a sensation of alacrity or urgency?
“Several recent actions suggest that the Trump administration is aware of the bill’s sectoral sanctions requirements. For example, on September 29, President Trump issued a presidential memorandum delegating “to the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, the functions and authorities vested in the President by” Section 231. Additionally, the administration has complied with other 60 day sectoral sanctions-related deadlines. For example, Sections 222 and 223 effectively codified and intensified pre-existing sectoral sanctions that had been imposed under Executive Order 13662. The government made the modifications that Section 223 required be done within 60 days on September 29. Moreover, although President Trump’s signing statement included a number of constitutional objections to specific provisions of the bill (including Section 222), Section 231 is not among them.” [Lawfare]
There’s no great urgency demonstrated when a bill is signed on August 2, 2017 and the initial instructions don’t go out to the departments until September 29, 2017. Section 231 (Russia) isn’t all that complicated, and more could certainly have been done to implement the provisions.
It isn’t often that every member of the Nevada congressional delegation votes in unity on any major piece of legislation, and it seems a shame that the President* hasn’t seen fit to move on this topic of important national interest. Unlike the South Carolina Senator, I think we can guess why little action is taking place concerning Section 231.