WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday called the Russia sanctions legislation he signed into law “significantly flawed” and urged Congress to not use the measure to hinder U.S. efforts to resolve the Ukraine conflict with its European allies.
“While I favor tough measures to punish and deter aggressive and destabilizing behavior by Iran, North Korea, and Russia, this legislation is significantly flawed,” the Republican president said in a statement. “In its haste to pass this legislation, the Congress included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions.”
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law new sanctions against Russia on Wednesday but he slammed the legislation as infringing on his powers to shape foreign policy, saying he could make “far better deals” with governments than Congress.
After signing a bill that Congress had approved overwhelmingly last week and which runs counter to his desire to improve relations with Moscow, the Republican president laid out a lengthy list of concerns.
His criticism of the sanctions, which also affect Iran and North Korea, raised the question of how much Trump is prepared to enforce the measures and to pursue action against Russia.
“While I favor tough measures to punish and deter aggressive and destabilizing behavior by Iran, North Korea, and Russia, this legislation is significantly flawed,” Trump said in a formal signing statement.
His hands were tied after the Republican-controlled Congress approved the legislation by such a large margin on Thursday that it would have thwarted any effort by him to veto the bill.
Congress passed the measure to punish the Russian government over interference in the 2016 presidential election, annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and other perceived violations of international norms.
The legislation has already provoked countermeasures by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has ordered big cuts to the number of staff at the U.S. diplomatic mission to Russia.
The House of Representatives’ top Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, expressed concern about Trump’s signing statement, saying it “raises serious questions about whether his administration intends to follow the law, or whether he will continue to enable and reward Vladimir Putin’s aggression.”
In the statement, Trump complained about what he said were “clearly unconstitutional provisions” in the legislation relating to presidential powers in setting foreign policy.
The new measure, the first major foreign policy legislation approved by Congress since Trump took office in January, includes a provision allowing the legislature to stop any effort by the president to ease existing sanctions on Russia.
Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was not at all concerned with the statement, noting that since Trump had signed the measure, it was now law.
“Whatever. It doesn’t matter to me what the signing statement says,” Corker told reporters. “It’s a good piece of legislation.”