Rachel Oswald

Senate Quandary: How to Sanction Russia Without Harming Europe
Foreign Relations chairman predicts resolution in coming weeks

As senators deliberate over legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia, former government officials warned against any action that would harm European allies that rely on gas imports from Russia.

“It’s very difficult with some of the bills that have been laid out to only punish Russia without punishing our European friends,” said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., at a Wednesday hearing on the importance of NATO.

State Department Hedges on Proposed New Russia Sanctions
Trump administration “needs discretion”

A senior State Department official on Tuesday urged senators to give the Trump administration considerable leeway as lawmakers contemplate new punitive sanctions against Russia.

“We need discretion with those sanctions,” testified Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, at a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on relations with Russia. “Sanctions without discretion, in my mind, is the antithesis of diplomacy.”

Lawmakers Wary of Potential Trump Cuts to Foreign Aid
Corker, Menendez doubt legality of reported plan

Sources close to Capitol Hill and within the foreign aid community say that Trump administration officials are preparing a potential foreign aid “rescission” package that could cut between $2 billion and $4 billion in fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018 funds from the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.

Some $200 million intended to benefit Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is thought to be on the chopping block as part of the request, sources said.

A GOP Congress Tries to Limit Its Republican President on Foreign Policy: Podcast
CQ on Congress, Episode 114

Lawmakers seem to be finally feeling their checks-and-balances oats. Members of both the House and Senate, from both parties, have begun passing legislation that could curb the foreign policy impulses of this impulsive president.  ...
Divide Over Israel Widens in Democratic Party
Party voices in favor of Palestinian rights, BDS are getting louder

On the surface, it looks like the U.S.-Israel relationship is having its best year ever. In May, President Donald Trump fulfilled Israel’s dream of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and his administration is preparing a Middle East peace plan that will almost certainly have Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s blessing. Congress, meanwhile, is poised to approve $3.3 billion in new defense assistance to Israel, a new high.

But there are political undercurrents that spell trouble for what has traditionally been unquestioned U.S. support for Israel, particularly within the Democratic Party on the eve of a midterm election that could swing the balance of power in one or both chambers of Congress and perhaps profoundly and permanently change the dynamic between the longtime allies.

United States Will Not Recognize Crimea as Part of Russia, Pompeo Asserts
Secretary of state outlines position as he testifies before Senate Foreign Relations panel

The United States will not recognize Crimea as part of Russia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted on Wednesday, unveiling an eagerly awaited hard position from the United States at a time of heightened tensions between the two superpowers. 

“The United States calls on Russia to respect the principles to which it has long claimed to adhere and to end its occupation of Crimea,” Pompeo said in a statement issued on the day he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Podcast: Why Congress Has a Russia Problem
CQ on Congress, Episode 112

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have denounced President Donald Trump's accommodation of Russia's Vladimir Putin, but as CQ foreign policy reporter Rachel Oswald explains, Congress is still wrangling with how to stop Russia from tampering in another U.S. election. And Cesar Vargas of the Dream Action Coalition makes the case for abolishing ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. ...
Democrats Press GOP for Quick Legislative Response on Russia
Several measures in both chambers designed to push back on Putin

House and Senate Democrats are pressuring their Republican colleagues to bring to the floor legislation introduced in response to President Donald Trump’s comments — and revisions to those comments — this week on Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Democratic House leaders released a bipartisan package that includes 17 previously introduced bills that would further restrict the White House’s foreign policy and economic options when it comes to Moscow.

Trump Helsinki Remarks Expose GOP Divide on Foreign Policy
Security hawks and presidential loyalists split on significance of Finland summit

President Donald Trump’s much-maligned performance at Monday’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin has deepened the Republican Party’s divide between traditional security hawks who want to stand up to Russia and conservatives who want to stay loyal to the president.

Democrats and several high-ranking Republicans condemned Trump’s comments in Helsinki, saying he accepted Putin’s assertions there was no Russian government-ordered campaign to swing the 2016 election in his favor, despite assessments to the contrary by the U.S. intelligence community.

Pompeo: Trump Serious About Russia Getting Back into G-7 Club
President’s comments speak for themselves, secretary of State says

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated to senators Wednesday that President Donald Trump is serious in his desire to have Russia rejoin the Group of 7 countries even absent any improvements in Moscow’s support for Russian separatists in Ukraine.

The U.S. president startled European allies earlier this month when he announced his wish to have Russia back in the G-7 fold. Moscow was expelled in 2014 from the influential grouping of wealthy industrialized democracies — at the urging of President Barack Obama — as a consequence for Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Since that time, there has been scant improvement in the military situation in Ukraine where, in the eastern part of the country, Russian-backed separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk have carved out weak proto-states.

Trump Pulls Out of Iran Deal, Reimposes Sanctions
Calls current agreement decaying and rotten

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he would reimpose sanctions on Iran, dealing a likely fatal blow to the 2015 multinational nuclear deal and upsetting European countries, Democrats and even some Republicans.

But though Trump’s action is aimed at punishing Iran, it is anger from U.S. allies, especially France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, that could most affect the United States in the coming weeks and months.

Podcast: Trump's Iran Deadline Is Nearly Here
CQ on Congress, Episode 100

President Trump has set a May 12 deadline for deciding whether to pull out of the 2015 deal with Iran to rollback its nuclear program. He has harshly criticized it, but is under pressure from foreign allies and even some in his administration to keep it, says CQ foreign policy reporter Rachel Oswald. ...
Corker Releases AUMF Without an Expiration Date
Prospects for approval uncertain with expected opposition within Foreign Relations panel

The long-awaited draft authorization to set new guidelines on the 17-year-old war on terrorism was released Monday night by senators and, to the displeasure of some Democrats, it would not impose significant restrictions on military operations, such as an expiration date.

The bipartisan Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2018 would repeal and replace the 2001 AUMF, which has been increasingly criticized for its expansive justification of all kinds of military actions against extremist groups that did not exist at the time of the 9/11 attacks. The new AUMF would also repeal the 2002 authorization that enabled the 2003 Iraq War.

Pompeo Confirms Mueller Interview
Secretary of state nominee testified before Senate Foreign Relations panel

Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo told senators at his confirmation hearing Thursday he has been questioned by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

Specifically, Mueller questioned the current CIA chief on a West Wing conversation last March with President Donald Trump and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in which the president reportedly asked Coats to get then-FBI head James B. Comey to drop his investigation into  former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Corker Lifts Blanket Hold on Arms Sales to Gulf States
Still no clear path on Gulf Cooperation Council rift

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker has lifted a months-long hold on weapon sales to Gulf countries after it failed to encourage a resolution to the ongoing diplomatic standoff between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

In a letter this week, the Tennessee Republican notified Secretary of State Rex Tillerson he was ending his eight-month blanket hold on lethal defense equipment sales to the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which comprises Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

Debate Over Sanctions Misses Real Issue: Lax Funding for Enforcement
 

Congress last year overwhelmingly passed tough sanctions to punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 election — a bill that President Donald Trump grudgingly signed into law. But enforcing those and the many other sanctions required by law means more money and personnel, two things sorely lacking at the Treasury Department....
Royce Retirement Prompts Foreign Affairs Successor Questions
Potential successors, Smith and Rohrabacher, have histories of bucking party

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce announced his retirement Monday, joining a wave of fellow senior Republicans in the House and Senate declining to seek re-election in a tough political environment.

The 13-term California lawmaker had only one year remaining on his term as committee chairman, but his retirement announcement nonetheless casts a spotlight on his potential successors, two of whom have histories of bucking the party.

Podcast: America's Iran Quandary and Why Money Can't Prevent Military Mishaps
The Week Ahead, Episode 75

CQ foreign policy reporter Rachel Oswald and Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association explain why Congress is in no rush to change the Iran nuclear deal. And CQ defense reporter John M. Donnelly argues the Pentagon does not necessarily need more money to prevent deadly accidents.

Show Notes:

Podcast: Why You Shouldn’t Be Alarmed Over North Korea...Yet
The Week Ahead, Episode 65

President Trump’s fiery rhetoric over North Korea’s nuclear program should not be taken seriously just yet, says CQ Roll Call’s foreign policy reporter Rachel Oswald, adding that Congress may take further action against Pyongyang in September.

Show Notes: