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Top U.S. Senators Criticize White House For Delay On Russian Sanctions

Senators Ben Cardin (left) and John McCain (composite photo)

WASHINGTON -- Two leading U.S. senators have accused President Donald Trump’s administration of dragging its feet on enforcing a new sanctions law on Russia, saying the White House has failed to provide information related to its defense and intelligence sectors.

The letter released on October 11 is the second from Democrat Ben Cardin and Republican John McCain criticizing the White House for failing to implement the legislation that Trump reluctantly signed into law on August 2.

The Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which passed Congress overwhelmingly, cemented in place existing sanctions and required the Trump administration to effectively get permission from Congress to lift them.

It also set an October 1 deadline for the administration to issue “regulations or other guidance" for individuals or entities operating on behalf of the Russian intelligence and defense sectors for potential sanctions.

But as of October 11, no public documents had been issued by the White House or executive agencies on that question, a delay that McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Cardin, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized.

“The delay calls into question the Trump administration’s commitment to the sanctions bill, which was signed into law more than two months ago, following months of public debate and negotiations in Congress. They’ve had plenty of time to get their act together,” said the letter.

“In addition to the administration’s lack of responsiveness on this deadline, there does not appear to be a significant diplomatic effort to engage our allies in Europe and lead an effort to increase pressure on Moscow. Congressional intent was clear, reflected in the overwhelming bipartisan majority in favor of the legislation,” the letter said.

There was no immediate response from the White House to the letter.

The U.S. president has repeatedly called for a more conciliatory approach to Russian policy, but Moscow’s alleged interference in last year’s presidential election and interactions between Trump associates and Russian officials during and after the election has hampered that push.

At least three different congressional committees are investigating the matter. A Justice Department special counsel is also conducting a criminal investigation on similar questions.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.