WASHINGTON – The sanctions targeting Russia stand as an act of retaliation by the Republican-led Congress against Moscow for its meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere.
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President Donald Trump grudgingly signed the legislation into law on Wednesday, calling it "significantly flawed." The measure also slaps penalties on Iran and North Korea.
The legislation, which bars Trump from waiving the Russia sanctions without first securing approval from Congress, passed last week in the House, 419-3, and in the Senate, 98-2. Those overwhelming margins guaranteed that Congress would be able to countermand any possible attempt by Trump to reject the measure.
Major features of the bill:
— Orders new sanctions on companies involved in Russian financed off-shore oil projects and oil and gas pipeline construction. The bill also targets companies doing business with Russia's military and intelligence sectors. Lawmakers modified an earlier version of the bill so as not to inadvertently undercut U.S. firms or interfere with how European allies acquire their energy.
— Cements into law a series of executive orders signed by former President Barack Obama to punish Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea, support for separatist rebels in Ukraine's east, and interference in the presidential campaign. Giving Obama's orders the force of law prevents them from being revoked easily.
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— Imposes a broader array of penalties on individuals and companies hit with Russia-specific sanctions, including the denial of visas, blocking of assets, the loss of Export-Import Bank assistance and loans from U.S. financial institutions, and prohibitions on U.S.-based property transactions.
— Requires Trump to give Congress a 30-day notice before easing or lifting the sanctions on Russia and spells out procedures for how the Senate and House can reject the president's proposal.
— On Iran, the package imposes new sanctions on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country's Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be required to compile a list of those responsible for committing extrajudicial killings, torture and other "gross violations" of human rights in Iran. These individuals also would be subject to sanctions.
— On North Korea, the bill incorporates a House measure passed in May that aims to thwart North Korea's ambition for a long-range nuclear weapon by cutting off access to the cash the regime needs. The bill bars ships owned by North Korea or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against Pyongyang from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports. Goods produced by North Korea's forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States.
Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rplardner