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Trump Administration Not Happy with New Russia Sanctions Bill

Neither President Donald Trump nor Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are particularly happy with the sanctions bill Congress passed against Russia.

The sanctions package, which also takes action against North Korea and Iran, was passed by veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate and signed into law by Trump Wednesday. The sanctions take particular aim at the Russian government for allegedly meddling in the 2016 election, as well as for its combative moves in Ukraine and military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Trump administration is reportedly worried that the legislation will hamper relations between the U.S. and Russia. Trump has also expressed concern that the bill decreases his executive authority.

Though he signed the bill, Trump made it known publicly that he believes it hinders the executive branch’s authority in conducting foreign policy.

“Since this bill was first introduced, I have expressed my concerns to Congress about the many ways it improperly encroaches on executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies,” he said in a statement.

Tillerson confirmed that the president is not pleased with the sanctions legislation.

“The action by the Congress to put these sanctions in place and the way they did, neither the president nor I were very happy about that,” the secretary of state told reporters Tuesday.

“We were clear that we didn’t think it was going to be helpful to our efforts, but that’s the decision they made,” Tillerson said. “They made it in a very overwhelming way. I think the president accepts that.”

In response to the bill’s overwhelming passage by Congress, Russia ordered the U.S. to decrease its diplomatic staff in the country by 755 people. The departing staff have until Sept. 1 to leave Russia.

Despite the outlook from Tillerson, other senior Trump officials claimed the president is pleased with some parts of the legislation.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday the president was happy that Congress changed key parts of the bill to reflect his wishes.

“President Donald J. Trump read early drafts of the bill and negotiated regarding critical elements of it,” Sanders said. “He has now reviewed the final version and, based on its responsiveness to his negotiations, approves the bill and intends to sign it.”

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday at a press conference in the nation of Georgia that Trump and Congress were speaking in a “unified voice” in regards to the sanctions legislation.

The bill does not allow the president to ease or waive penalties placed on Russia without prior approval from Congress.

While the Trump administration was able to work with lawmakers on many parts of the bill, Trump said the legislation “remains seriously flawed – particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate.”

In a slight jab towards lawmakers for their failure to pass healthcare reform, Trump remarked that he can “make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.”

“Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking,” Trump said. “By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together.”