State Department follows through on new Russia sanctions

By Will Racke, DCNF DCNF

The Department of State initiated a new round of sanctions against Russian entities late Thursday, after lawmakers raised concern that the Trump administration was slow-walking the congressionally mandated punitive measures.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave Congress a list of 39 Russian individuals, businesses, and government agencies with ties to Moscow’s defense and intelligence operations. Under a law passed in August, U.S. companies doing business with entities on that list could be hit with penalties after the sanctions take effect early next year.

The bipartisan sanctions bill, which Trump signed despite concerns that it would undermine his foreign policy prerogatives, gave the administration until Oct. 1 to come up with a roster of potential targets. As the deadline passed without any movement from the administration, lawmakers began applying greater pressure on the White House to deliver the list to Congress.

The State Department blamed the delay on the complexity of identifying which entities were tangled up in the Russian intelligence and defense apparatus. The administration also said the process was slowed because it required input from multiple departments.

“There was an inter-agency review that’s now been completed, that’s the reason for the delay,” White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders told reporters Friday.

The names of individuals and companies on the list have not been publicized, but the administration is expected to do so in the coming days. That is not typically done in advance of sanctions, but the State Department intends to reveal the names in order to give U.S. companies time to sever any ties they might have with the Russian entities.

“These are the types of entities that they can no longer do business with,” Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, according to CBS. “So it helps them to at least make their business decisions and be able to decide on the best course of action going forward.”

Trump signed the sanctions bill in August under pressure from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. In addition to penalizing the Russian government and crude oil projects, the law targets Iran and North Korea.

The White House pushed back against a provision of the bill that prevents the president from unilaterally lifting sanctions against Russia, arguing that it would tie the president’s hands in future diplomatic negotiations with Moscow. Facing veto proof majorities in Congress, Trump reluctantly signed the bill into law.

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