Senate passes sanctions; Putin accuses U.S. lawmakers of ‘insolence’

July 27 (UPI) — The U.S. Senate passed legislation Thursday tightening sanctions on Russia, a move Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would retaliate against earlier in the day.

The Senate voted 98-2 to easily pass the bill and send it to President Donald Trump‘s desk. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the legislation with a 419-3 vote. It also toughens sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

It’s unclear if Trump plans to sign the bill, but it passed with veto-proof majorities in both chambers. Communications director Anthony Scaramucci told CNN there’s a chance Trump could veto it.

“He may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are, or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians,” he said.

In response to the House vote, Putin accused U.S. lawmakers of insolence and said Russia would respond if the U.S. Senate also approves the legislation and President Donald Trump signs it into law.

“It’s impossible to endlessly tolerate this kind of insolence towards our country,” Putin said. “This practice is unacceptable — it destroys international relations and international law.”

The bill is expected to easily pass the Senate. The upper chamber previously approved a similar bill, but it was nullified under the constitutional provision that legislation raising revenue must originate in the House.

When House leadership took up the bill, they added additional sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

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“This arouses deep regrets because such actions imply aggravating circumstances and special cynicism,” Putin said.

“Because this is an obvious attempt to use geopolitical advantages in competition to pursue its economic interests at the expense of its allies.”

The original legislation was drafted in response to what the U.S. intelligence community has said was a wide-ranging plan by Russian agents at the direction of Putin to interject Russian interests into the U.S. presidential election.

What followed were Internet hacks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee and high-ranking officials in the Hillary Clinton campaign, most notably campaign chairman John Podesta. The Russians then systematically leaked sensitive information to maximize the damage to Clinton and the Democrats, intelligence agents say.

Though at first he dismissed the accusations against Russian hacking as conjecture, Trump eventually said he agreed with the intelligence findings. He has called the subsequent investigations into the matter, and whether any members of his campaign colluded with the Russians in that effort, a “witch hunt.”

The Senate is expected to take up the matter Thursday evening. If the legislation produces the broad bipartisan support leaders from both parties predicted, it would force Trump to sign it or face the political embarrassment of Congress overriding his veto.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has lobbied against Congress codifying sanctions, saying the administration needed the “flexibility” of strengthening or easing sanctions depending on the status of international deliberations over Ukraine, Syria and other issues.

The administration has at times demonstrated a willingness to take a tougher tack against Russia via sanctions.

In June, the Treasury Department added 38 more Russian officials and entities to its list of individuals banned from doing business in the United States, a strategy first employed by the Obama administration in an effort to directly pressure Putin’s inner circle. The Trump administration’s increased Russia sanctions came after continued violence in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have waged a guerrilla campaign against the Ukrainian military since 2014.


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