White House won't impose sanctions on Russia by congressional deadline

WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Monday a 2017 U.S. law was deterring billions of dollars in Russian defense sales, but it did not announce any sanctions under the measure designed to punish Russia for allegedly seeking to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

"Today, we have informed Congress that this legislation and its implementation are deterring Russian defense sales," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. "Since the enactment of the ... legislation, we estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions."

With the statement, President Donald Trump's administration signaled it was not imposing new sanctions under a bill he reluctantly signed into law in August, just six months into his presidency.

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Putting the Trump-Russia timeline into perspective
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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.
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Members of Congress, including Democrats and some of Trump's fellow Republicans, have been clamoring for his administration to use sanctions to punish Moscow for past election interference and prevent future meddling in U.S. polls.

"Given the long timeframes generally associated with major defense deals, the results of this effort are only beginning to become apparent," Nauert said. "From that perspective, if the law is working, sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent."

In what was seen as a test of Trump's willingness to crack down on Russia, Congress had given the administration a Jan. 29 deadline to release key reports under the law.

The State Department said further details were contained in a classified report it had submitted to Congress.

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Russia-linked ads shared on social media during 2016 election
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Russia-linked ads shared on social media during 2016 election
This graphic of Jesus and Hillary Clinton is an actual post shared by the Russian page “Army of Jesus,” released du… https://t.co/08ObFsWnkG
this Russian-bought ad presented without comment (except to say it's a Russian-bought ad) https://t.co/X4Atha4fil
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(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Makini Brice and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)

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