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Trump signs Russia sanctions bill

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US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a bill imposing sanctions on Russia, after the legislation overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate, Fox News reported on Wednesday.


The stiff financial sanctions were championed by lawmakers in both parties, and Trump's signature could escalate tensions with Moscow -- which already has ordered a reduction in the number of US diplomats in Russia.

 

The bill itself targets Iran and North Korea as well as Russia.

 

 

But a cornerstone of the legislation was a provision barring Trump from easing or waiving the additional penalties on Russia unless Congress agrees. The provisions were included to assuage concerns among lawmakers that the president's push for better relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin might lead him to relax the penalties without first securing concessions from the Kremlin.

 

The Senate passed the bill, 98-2, two days after the House pushed the measure through by an overwhelming margin, 419-3. Both were veto proof numbers, upping pressure on Trump to sign the legislation. 

 

The legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where the Kremlin has backed President Bashar Assad. 

 

Signing a bill that penalizes Russia's election interference would mark a significant shift for Trump. He's repeatedly cast doubt on the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that Russia sought to tip the election in his favor. And he's blasted as a "witch hunt" investigations into the extent of Russia's interference and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.

 

The 184-page bill seeks to hit Putin and the oligarchs close to him by targeting Russian corruption, human rights abusers, and crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports. 

 

In recent days, though, Trump has suggested he's tougher on Russia than many believe. 

 

The bill underwent revisions to address concerns voiced by American oil and natural gas companies that sanctions specific to Russia's energy sector could backfire on them to Moscow's benefit. The bill raised the threshold for when US firms would be prohibited from being part of energy projects that also included Russian businesses.

 

Lawmakers said they also made adjustments so the sanctions on Russia's energy sector didn't undercut the ability of US allies in Europe to get access to oil and gas resources outside of Russia.

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