The Trump administration’s delay in implementing congressionally mandated Russia sanctions provoked an outcry on Capitol Hill hours before President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address to lawmakers.
Congress last year overwhelmingly approved mandatory penalties against those who do business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. This week, the Trump administration said the law already has had a chilling effect on those sectors even before sanctions take effect.
A chorus of Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, accused the administration of dragging its feet.
“President Trump has failed time and time again to stand up to Vladimir Putin, despite the assault that he carried out on our democracy in the 2016 election,” said Schumer.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told a Senate panel the administration is still looking at imposing sanctions based on a list of Kremlin-affiliated business moguls the Treasury Department published Monday.
“So this should in no way be interpreted as we’re not putting sanctions on any of the people in that report,” said Mnuchin.
In a statement, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Bob Corker, said he is satisfied the Trump administration is working “in good faith” on Russia sanctions. Not so, according to the committee's top Democrat, Senator Ben Cardin.
“Russia is engaged in activities against our country that require mandatory (U.S.) action that’s what Congress agreed by an overwhelming majority,” said Cardin. “And to date, not one sanction has been imposed under that legislation by President Trump.”
In his State of the Union address, Trump is expected to hail more robust U.S. economic expansion during his first year in office, something Republican lawmakers attribute to recent tax cuts and a reduction in federal regulations. Democrats say most of the credit for America's economic performance should go to former President Barack Obama.