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Report Says White House is Pushing Back Against New Russia Sanctions

An Ohio Democrat claims the White House is seeking to delay or prevent House passage of a package of sanctions against Russia that were approve by the Senate.

“I know that some people in the White House are pushing back,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “People in the White House, we hear, are making calls in the House to try to stop it, slow it, weaken it, dilute it.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday signaled the administration’s lack of support for the bill.

“I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation,” Tillerson told the House Foreign Affairs and Appropriations committees.

“Essentially, we would ask for the flexibility to turn the heat up when we need to, but also to ensure that we have the ability to maintain a constructive dialogue,” he said.

The Senate bill would require the president to inform Congress before taking any action that could alter foreign policy “wit h regard to the Russian federation,” including changes to the sanctions imposed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and those imposed in 2016 after Russia was accused of meddling in the presidential election.

New sanctions on Russian individuals tied to “malicious cyber activity” or Russia’s intelligence and defense sectors are also included in the bill.

Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky were the only senators to oppose the bill.

Business Insider quoted an unnamed White House official as saying the bill’s current form “poses a number of risks to the administration’s ability to conduct foreign policy.”

“Generally speaking, sanctions policies should be carefully calibrated by the foreign policy experts in the executive branch,” the official added, saying the administration “remains committed” to the existing sanctions and that the White House was still “reviewing” the bill.

Asked last week about the bill, Deputy white House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration was “committed to existing sanctions” imposed in response to Russia’s incursions into Ukraine.

“We believe that the existing executive branch sanctions regime is the best tool for compelling Russia to fulfill its commitments, and the administration will continue to work with Congress to ensure that we pursue the best course of action,” she said.

At the start of his presidency, Trump said he wanted to improve relations with Russia, which has placed him at odds with both conservatives and liberals in Congress.