President Barack Obama should address the nation about Ukraine and come to Congress for a new vote authorizing tougher economic sanctions against Russia, Sen. Lindsey Graham said after a closed briefing Tuesday.
The South Carolina Republican came away from the briefing on Ukraine doubting that free elections will move forward in the eastern part of the country.
"The new standard for sectoral sanctions would be if Russia disrupts the elections on May 25. I think that standard has already been met," said Graham. "I'm encouraged to hear that that would lead to sectoral sanctions."
He said a Ukraine election was "almost impossible in the east, that there are so many cities and buildings occupied that it would be very difficult to have a free and fair election, given what Russia has already done.
"If the president is going to impose sectoral sanctions through executive order, he needs to inform the American people very quickly because the election is just around the corner. I would urge the president to get on national television and lay out the plan that if the elections do not go forward in a free and fair fashion in the Ukraine, I am going to impose sectoral sanctions, which means it will hurt our economy," Graham said. "The price we would pay I think would be worth it."
But Graham said he would prefer that Obama ask Congress to approve the sanctions on Russia.
"Instead of doing this by executive order, Mr. President, come to the Congress and see if you could get bipartisan buy-in to sectoral sanctions, which would send a stronger message to Putin," Graham said, suggesting Congress could act "overnight."
"But the president has to get on national television and persuade people this is a path worth going down," he added.