The Trump administration’s weird explanation for withholding Russia sanctions | News News
President Trump speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images) We may be wading into the first constitutional dispute of the Trump administration. On Monday night, the State Department announced it would not impose the sanctions that Congress passed in mid-2017. But its justification for doing so has gaping logical holes. Here’s what the State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: “Today, we have informed Congress that this legislation and its implementation are deterring Russian defense sales. Since the enactment of the . . . legislation, we estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions.” A State Department official added that there was, in fact, no need for the new sanctions “because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent.” There are a few problems with this. The first is that the legislation was meant as a punishment, not a deterrent. The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act explicitly says at the top that it is “to provide congressional review and to counter aggression by the Governments of Iran, the Russian Federation, and North Korea, and for other purposes.” The law says it’s about “countering” something, rather than preventing something. The second problem is that, mere hours before the State Department issued this statement ahead of the deadline for imposing sanctions, CIA Director Mike Pompeo suggested that what Russia was being punished for is likely to repeat itself in the 2018 midterm elections. “I haven’t seen a significant decrease in their activity,” Pompeo told BBC News. He added: “I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that, but I’m confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election, [and] that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won’t be great.” So to recap, the head of America’s fo…
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