Senators to Unveil Effort to Check Trump on Russia Sanctions

Graham and Cardin say release of sanctions oversight bill is imminent

Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are expected to be among those introducing Russia sanctions legislation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are expected to be among those introducing Russia sanctions legislation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted February 7, 2017 at 6:11pm

Key senators plan to release bipartisan legislation Wednesday that would give Congress a say in any effort to ease sanctions against Russia.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said just after President Donald Trump took office that such a bill would be developed, and two senators expected to spearhead the measure have told Roll Call that release is imminent.

Foreign Relations ranking member Benjamin L. Cardin said legislation that would establish a review process for a rollback of sanctions against Russia would be unveiled Wednesday.

“That bill has strong bipartisan support,” the Maryland Democrat said.

The measure is expected to be introduced by a bipartisan coalition of senators led by Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and also including Armed Services Chairman John McCain of Arizona and others.

McCain gave a floor speech Tuesday about Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian activist and Putin critic who has apparently been poisoned for a second time. The Arizona Republican also took a thinly veiled shot at Trump’s less than definitive response to question from Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in which O’Reilly referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer.”

“In short, Vladimir [Kara-Murza] knew that Putin is a killer, and that he might very well be the next target. Vladimir knew there was no moral equivalence between the United States and Putin’s Russia,” McCain said. “And anyone who would make such a suggestion maligns the character of our great nation and does a disservice to all those whose blood is on Putin’s hands.”

The Kremlin is seeking an apology from O’Reilly, who interviewed Trump as part of Fox’s Super Bowl coverage.

Graham said Tuesday afternoon that a statement was in the works to go along with unveiling the measure, saying it be announced as early as later in the day.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is another Republican who has been connected to the Graham-Cardin bill. Speaking with CNN on Monday, Rubio said that he thought any effort by the Trump administration to ease economic sanctions on Russia without Putin taking key steps like respecting the sovereignty of Ukraine could be met with legislation showing veto-proof opposition.

“My sense is that we would have the votes to pass that in the Senate, and that we would be able to pass it with a veto-proof majority,” Rubio said.