Emails by Trump's Son Boost Drive for Russia Sanctions Bill in Congress

By Natalie Andrews Features Dow Jones Newswires

The release of emails purporting to show Russia offered help to President Donald Trump's campaign is ramping up calls for Congress to pass a bill sanctioning Moscow for its interference in the election, although House Democrats continued to object to newly added text.

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Donald Trump Jr. published emails Tuesday showing he attended a meeting last June with a Russian attorney to discuss allegedly incriminating information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton he was told was being offered as part of the Russian government's support of his father's candidacy.

The bill to sanction Russia as well as Iran cleared the Senate last month in an unusually bipartisan vote of 98-2. The legislation would make it tougher for Mr. Trump to lift sanctions on Russia, impose new sanctions and insert a congressional review provision of such measures.

The bill is now stalled in the House over legislative procedural issues that senators thought they had fixed before Congress's July 4 recess.

"Congress has a responsibility to act, they need to act and they need to act now," said Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), one of the bill's sponsors. "This is a very important bill. My guess is those who are trying to weaken and defeat the bill are using every opportunity they can toÇ do that."

White House officials have criticized the congressional review provision, saying they support the sanctions but the measure as written would erode the president's power to conduct diplomacy.

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If unchanged, the bill would require the president to seek Congress's permission to relax the present set of sanctions against Russia. Without the legislation, the executive branch can decide to reverse the sanctions on its own.

The oversight provision applies to existing sanctions the Obama administration imposed through executive order.

Another portion of the bill would prohibit U.S. citizens and entities from exporting goods, nonfinancial services and technology in support of deep-water, Arctic offshore or shale-exploration projects involving Russian concerns. It also would tighten restrictions on the extension of credit to Russian entities.

The administration's position is being undercut by revelations from the investigations into Moscow's meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, including the president's son's emails.

The news of the meeting in Trump Tower last year also came just days after Mr. Trump tweeted that sanctions didn't come up in his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit over the weekend. The White House later corrected that tweet, saying through White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday that sanctions were part of the discussion.

Asked about the bill Tuesday, Ms. Sanders said opposition to the congressional review "is more about foreign policy and having the flexibility to negotiate...and this includes working with allies and partners to present a united front to common foes and we are committed to working with Congress on those issues."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), referenced the newly released emails and said "between these revelations and the president's horrendous handling of the meeting with Mr. Putin, it's clear that Congress needs to step in and sanction Russia and be the roadblock to lifting sanctions because clearly the president will not be tough on Mr. Putin as he should be."

House Republicans first raised parliamentary concerns with the sanctions bill. Yet a fix inserted before the July 4 recess is now drawing objections from some House Democrats, who say it strips power from the minority party in Congress. They are refusing to give consent for a procedural vote that would allow the bill to go back to the Senate to be amended until that language is removed.

"I believe this is an issue that we can quickly resolve, and I hope that Republican leadership will work with us to address this issue and bring the bill to the floor for a strong, bipartisan vote this week," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said in an email.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R., Texas), who is one of the president's allies, has also voiced concern that provisions in the bill could hurt energy companies in his state.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), the head of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, is considering moving his own bill, should the Senate bill stall, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), who oversaw the Senate bill, expressed impatience on Monday that the bill had not yet hit the president's desk.

"All the House has to do is pass the sanctions bill," he told reporters, dismissing the procedural issues as an easy-to-overcome hurdle.

Write to Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 11, 2017 17:02 ET (21:02 GMT)