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Trump Finally Signs Sanctions Bill, Then Adds Bizarre Statements

Trump cites tough sanctions legislation as sign Americans want to see closer relations with Russia. Also, he claims to have built a great company.

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President Donald Trump may have felt forced to sign the new sanctions legislation into law. After all, it came to him with overwhelming congressional support, in response to alleged Russian meddling in the election that put him in the White House, and exists in part to make it more difficult for Trump to unilaterally lift sanctions against Russia.

That doesn’t mean he has to like it.

On Wednesday, Trump signed into law the fresh sanctions legislation that could tighten the screws on Iran, North Korea, and above all Russia -- but did so with his own peculiar flourish in a pair of statements.

President Donald Trump may have felt forced to sign the new sanctions legislation into law. After all, it came to him with overwhelming congressional support, in response to alleged Russian meddling in the election that put him in the White House, and exists in part to make it more difficult for Trump to unilaterally lift sanctions against Russia.

That doesn’t mean he has to like it.

On Wednesday, Trump signed into law the fresh sanctions legislation that could tighten the screws on Iran, North Korea, and above all Russia — but did so with his own peculiar flourish in a pair of statements.

The first, a bit more formal, complains that “this legislation is significantly flawed,” and goes on to say that some sections are unconstitutional, including “provisions [that] purport to displace the President’s exclusive constitutional authority to recognize foreign governments, including their territorial bounds, in conflict with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry.”

The statement also seemingly sought to quell European anxieties, whose firms could be targeted for working with Russia’s energy or financial sectors. “My Administration particularly expects the Congress to refrain from using this flawed bill to hinder our important work with European allies to resolve the conflict in Ukraine,” Trump said. (European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker promised to retaliate if European interests are hurt.)

The second statement goes with a somewhat different approach.

In the “Statement by President Donald J. Trump on Signing the ‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,’” the president stresses that the bill was made better from negotiations with his administration. “Still, the bill remains seriously flawed — particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate,” before wandering into the befuddled land of the non sequitur. “Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking,” the statement continued.

Trump then claimed that he signed the bill for national unity, taking the State Department’s head-scratching line that the crushing congressional sanctions on Moscow are a sign that the American people want to see Russia improve relations with the United States.

Then out of nowhere, Trump continues: “I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress,” guaranteeing that the second statement, at least, was written with Trump’s input.

Photo credit: Zach Gibson – Pool/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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