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Lawmakers Irate More Than Three Weeks After Missed Russia Sanctions Deadline

President Trump greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov prior to talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

WASHINGTON — The White House is reportedly blaming the stall on implementing required Russian sanctions on the State Department, saying there was no “deliberate” move to miss the Oct. 1 deadline.

At the beginning of August, President Trump signed veto-proof sanctions legislation targeting Russia, Iran and North Korea, which included a provision requiring the administration to name targeted entities and implement sanctions on Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. The deadline in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act has come and gone without indication of when the administration will meet the obligation.

“This delay is absolutely inexcusable,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Richard Blumental (D-Conn.) told CNN this evening. “There is no reason, none, the administration has for failing to meet that deadline.”

Blumenthal said the White House was sending a message to Russia that “we will not enforce our own laws when their interests are at stake.”

He vowed that lawmakers “will take whatever action” in a bipartisan way to pressure the administration to comply.

“We certainly heard that, you know, some members of Congress are concerned about the timeline of this,” State Department press secretary Heather Nauert told reporters Tuesday. “…We are working to try to complete that process. I believe the original deadline that we were given was about a two month process. My understanding, and I’m not working on this myself — but from our people who are working on it, they tell me that it’s pretty complicated. That it can take some time, that they’re working to complete the process and provide the public guidance to — certainly to the relevant people just as soon as possible. I know that Congress is concerned about it.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) vowed to “get on the phone with someone and find out” why sanctions were apparently being delayed.

“The delay calls into question the Trump administration’s commitment to the sanctions bill which was signed into law more than two months ago, following months of public debate and negotiations in Congress,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said in a joint statement two weeks ago. “They’ve had plenty of time to get their act together.”

McCain and Cardin wrote to Trump on Sept. 28, stressing how “critical” it is that his administration “robustly enforce” the new sanctions law, which required by Oct. 1 “regulations or other guidance to specify the persons that are a part of, or operate for or on behalf of, the defense and intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation.”

When Trump signed the legislation, he issued a signing statement complaining that Congress had tied his business-dealmaking skills with the stipulation that lawmakers approve any Russia sanctions rollback and that the bill didn’t recognize Russian rule over land forcibly taken.

The president also complained that sections about Iran ballistic missile sanctions, enforcement of arms embargoes, Russia sanctions, cybersecurity sanctions on Moscow, corruption and human rights sanctions on Russia, and arms sales to Syria “would require me to deny certain individuals entry into the United States, without an exception for the president’s responsibility to receive ambassadors.”‘

“My administration particularly expects the Congress to refrain from using this flawed bill to hinder our important work with European allies to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, and from using it to hinder our efforts to address any unintended consequences it may have for American businesses, our friends, or our allies,” Trump added.