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Thursday, 3 August 2017

Politics: Trump — and Russia — slam Congress over new sanctions law

U.S. President Trump awards the Medal of Honor to James McCloughan during a ceremony at the White House in Washington

President Donald Trump appeared to echo Kremlin talking points Thursday morning when he tweeted that Congress was to blame for the US relationship with Russia.

President Donald Trump appeared to echo Kremlin talking points Thursday morning when he tweeted that Congress was to blame for the US relationship with Russia being at an "all-time & very dangerous low."

"Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low," he said. "You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us HCare!"

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, responded quickly.

"Or you could thank Russian dictator Putin, who hacked US election, undermines Western alliances, invaded Ukraine & annexed Crimea," he tweeted.

Trump's tweet came a day after Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took to Twitter to denounce the veto-proof sanctions bill that Trump was essentially handcuffed into signing on Wednesday, appearing to appeal to the president's ego by calling his administration weak and pinning the blame on Congress.

"The Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way," Medvedev tweeted on Wednesday.

Jeremy Bash, the former chief of staff at the Defense Department and the CIA, predicted earlier this week that Trump's "bromance" with Russian President Vladimir Putin would continue even if Trump signed the sanctions bill, because Putin would know Trump was backed into a corner by Congress.

Medvedev seemed to acknowledge that on Wednesday, writing that while Trump "is not happy about the sanctions...he could not but sign the bill."

"The US establishment fully outwitted Trump," he said.

Trump is known for "punching back" when he feels slighted. He slammed China last weekend, for instance, for its reluctance to rein in North Korea. He criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan hours after a deadly terror attack rocked the city in June. Last year, during the presidential campaign, he attacked the Gold Star parents of slain Army Cpt. Humayun Khan after they spoke out against him at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

As of Thursday, however, Trump still had not responded to Putin's demand that 755 diplomatic workers, many of them American, be cut from the US Embassy in Moscow and from US diplomatic missions in St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, and Vladivostok.

The cuts would be the steepest in nearly 100 years and would go much further than President Barack Obama's decision to expel 35 Russian diplomats from the US as punishment for Russia's election interference.

Ned Price, a former CIA analyst who served as a National Security Council spokesperson and Special Assistant to President Barack Obama, called Trump's tweet on Thursday "inexplicable" and said it "does nothing more than reiterate what Moscow already knows: namely that Russia has a stalwart friend in the form of the President of the United States."

But Price noted that it was not the first time Trump "has parroted Kremlin talking points."

"He did it consistently during the campaign—actually directing his supporters to Moscow’s propaganda—and has continued to do so as President," Price said on Thursday. "Moscow may well know why President Trump is so loyal, but the American people continue to be baffled — and rightly so."

Trump's attacks on Congress, meanwhile, mark a bizarre turning point in the drama unfolding between the White House and the GOP-controlled House and Senate.

That battle has escalated in recent weeks amid the Senate's failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, and Trump has criticized Republicans for failing to protect him amid the intelligence committees' probes into his campaign's contacts with Russia during the election.

"As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!" Trump tweeted late last month. "It's very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President."

A provision in the new sanctions bill requiring Trump to get congressional approval before altering or lifting sanctions on Russia has also been a major point of contention between the White House and Congress.

Trump, who has lingering doubts that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, said shortly after signing the bill into law on Wednesday that "America will not tolerate interference in our democratic process" and denounced "Russian subversion and destabilization."

But he called the legislation "seriously flawed," claiming that it "improperly encroaches on executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies."



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