Top senators slam Trump for failing to implement Russia sanctions

Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin sent a letter to President Donald Trump late last month expressing concern that his administration had not yet implemented new sanctions against Russia that he signed into law on August 2.

"As critical deadlines are approaching, it is imperative that your Administration implement the law to its fullest extent to uphold and protect American interests," the senators wrote. "Given the ongoing threat that Russia poses to the US and our other allies, we are particularly concerned about the need for vigorous enforcement of the sanctions against Russia."

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

RELATED: Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective

Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective
See Gallery
Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective
June 7: The 2016 primary season essentially concludes, with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the presumptive party nominees
June 9: Donald Trump Jr. — along with Jared Kushner and former campaign chair Paul Manafort — meets with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
June 9: Trump tweets about Clinton's missing 33,000 emails
July 18: Washington Post reports, on the first day of the GOP convention, that the Trump campaign changed the Republican platform to ensure that it didn't call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces
July 21: GOP convention concludes with Trump giving his speech accepting the Republican nomination
July 22: WikiLeaks releases stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee
July 25: Democratic convention begins
July 27: In final news conference of his 2016 campaign, Trump asks Russia: "If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing"
August 4: Obama CIA Director John Brennan confronts his Russian counterpart about Russia's interference. "[I] told him if you go down this road, it's going to have serious consequences, not only for the bilateral relationship, but for our ability to work with Russia on any issue, because it is an assault on our democracy," Brennan said on "Meet the Press" yesterday.
October 4: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange says his organization will publish emails related to the 2016 campaign
October 7: WikiLeaks begins releasing Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta's emails
October 7: Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence release a statement directly saying that Russia is interfering in the 2016 election
October 31: "This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove," Trump says on the campaign trail
November 4: "Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks," Trump says from Ohio.

But the president appears to have blown past the October 1 deadline McCain and Cardin gave the White House to clarify which entities the administration planned to sanction within Russia's defense and intelligence sectors. The senators made their letter public on Wednesday.

McCain is chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Cardin is the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The pair had requested a briefing from the State Department and Treasury on the administration's "overall sanctions implementation plan with respect to Russia," according to the letter, but never received it. 

"The delay calls into question the Trump administration’s commitment to the sanctions bill which was signed into law more than two months ago, following months of public debate and negotiations in Congress," the senators said in a joint statement on Wednesday. "They’ve had plenty of time to get their act together."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump has called the sanctions legislation, which also targets Iran and North Korea, "seriously flawed." He said shortly after signing the bill that it "improperly encroaches on executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies." He tweeted later that Congress was to blame for the US relationship with Russia being at an "all-time & very dangerous low."

A provision in the sanctions law requiring Trump to get congressional approval before altering or lifting sanctions on Russia was a major point of contention between the White House and Congress. But Trump was all but forced to sign the legislation, which had a veto-proof majority and would have passed regardless of his approval.

"As you know, the law provides for Congress to review any administration determination to remove sanctions designations on individuals or entities," McCain and Cardin wrote in their September 28 letter to Trump.

"Based on the overwhelming Congressional support for enacting this law, and that provision in particular, Congress will undoubtedly take that role seriously," they said.

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SEE ALSO: House Intel Democrat: Devin Nunes is risking the credibility of the Russia probe — and only 1 person can intervene

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