The theme of the so-called president doing the bidding of Vladimir Putin seemed a bit overblown until recently.
Today is the deadline for our president to implement sanctions against Russia as required in a bill that passed the House of Representatives by 419 to 3 and the Senate by 98 to 2.
Last October, Senator Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had to lean on the president and the State Department to implement a previous regime of sanctions against Russia.
The issue puts the so-called president into a difficult position because if he does impose the sanctions, he is very likely to make Putin mad at him, but if he fails to do so, he will likely make Congress mad at him. The claim since Trump took office is that he owes more loyalty, in his own mind, anyway, to Putin than he does to anyone in the United States and is therefore more likely to act as Putin wants him to than as Congress or any other U.S. individual or institution wants him to.
Putin has been angry about U.S. sanctions for over a year. In 2012, Congress passed, and Obama signed, despite his previous opposition, the Magnisky Act, which imposed sanctions on specific Russians in response to the death of a Russian citizen who suffered arrest and prosecution after he exposed more or less official Russian theft from the investment company under U.S. ownership that he worked for. The Russians have been very angry about the Magnitsky Act ever since. They stopped allowing U.S. citizens to adopt Russian babies in retaliation.
This mess is at the center of the now notorious meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., and the Russian lawyer in June 2016 that Junior had to answer questions about.
If the so called president genuinely has the best interests of the United States in mind, a big if, and if he has any sense of political and policy propriety, an even bigger if, he will implement the Russian sanctions by today’s deadline. A report dated 1:06 a.m. Tuesday from the Telegraph, an English newspaper, indicates that the State Department has issued a statement asserting that actual sanctions are unnecessary because their mere threat, as embodied in the statute requiring them, has proven sufficient to deter significant quantities of arms purchases from the Russians.
Various observers have already denounced this decision as inadequate. Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, has stated publicly that he has seen no decrease in Russian activities for purposes of interfering in elections in the U.S. and elsewhere.
We shall see what the official response from members of Congress is.
It doesn’t look pretty. Trump looks ever more like a Putin toady, not like president of the United States.