What are the Russia sanctions? Here are 6 things to know

(USA TODAY) -- President Trump on Wednesday signed new sanctions against Russia, North Korea, and Iran into law.

But he's not exactly happy about it.

Here are six things you should know about the sanctions package – and why you should care.

Why did Congress issue these sanctions?

The bill imposes stiff financial penalties on Russia, Iran and North Korea for acts the U.S. sees as against its national interest and the interests of allies. 

The sanctions are meant to punish Russia for its alleged campaign of cyberattacks and fake news to influence the 2016 presidential election, and its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea territory.

The sanctions also target North Korea due to its recent missile launch, and Iran’s continued government support of terrorist organizations, among other things.

What does this actually do to Russia?

The sanctions are meant to target Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle, a group that the U.S. alleges includes corrupt officials and human rights abusers. The sanctions target the country’s oil and mining industry, and seeks to penalize individuals accused of involvement in Russian government hacking activities.


Angered by the possibility of new sanctions, Moscow retaliated by ordering the expulsion of 755 American diplomatic staff and seized recreational property used by embassy personnel.

How does it affect Iran and North Korea?

The bill will place sanctions on anyone who is contributing to the Iranian government's development of weapons of mass destruction as well as those who are found to have aided terrorist organizations.

The sanctions prohibit ships owned by North Korea, as well as those owned by countries that refuse to comply with United Nations resolutions against the country, from docking at U.S. ports or operating in American waters. Additionally, goods produced by North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States.

Why is that controversial?

Both houses of Congress overwhelmingly passed the bill. And they included a provision to prevent Trump from removing or easing the penalties without the consent of Congress.

This was included to allay concerns among lawmakers that the president’s recent effort to improve relations Russian President Vladimir Putin might lead him to ease the penalties. Trump had previously objected to the curbs on his ability to relax sanctions on Russia  and continues to cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Putin directed the election meddling to influence the election in his favor.

Trump is also furious about the ongoing investigations into possible collusion between his associates and Russians who sought to influence the presidential election.

How does Trump feel about this? 

He's not thrilled. Trump signed the bill – "for the sake of national unity," he said – but issued an extraordinary, blistering statement insisting the legislation would impede the executive branch’s ability to conduct foreign policy and negotiate with other countries.

"Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking," Trump said. "By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together."  Still, Trump said, he would sign the bill "despite its problems."

How do lawmakers feel about it?

It's safe to say they're pleased, despite Trump's apparent displeasure. The Senate passed the bill 98-2 and the House had a striking 419-3. The bill was so popular that Congress could have easily overridden any possible Trump veto.

Yet some Democrats saw Trump’s disgruntled signing statement as a sort of “apology” to Putin. Others, such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Trump's signature on the bill was the right thing to do – but his comments demonstrate that Congress "is going to need to keep a sharp eye on this administration's implementation of this critical law."

It's a sign of bipartisanship in a gridlocked Congress. “Democrats and Republicans worked well together to ensure that this bill arrived at the President’s desk with a veto-proof majority," Schumer continued. "This legislation shows its possible for the two parties to work together to rein in the President when he veers off track, and I hope it serves as a model for the future.”

Contributing: David Jackson, Oren Dorell, Kim Hjelmgaard, Jessica Estepa

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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