US & Canada

White House uncertainty over fresh Russia sanctions

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. July 7, 2017 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin recently held talks at the G20 summit in Germany

White House officials have given differing messages after US Congress agreed on legislation allowing fresh sanctions against Russia.

The laws would also curb President Donald Trump's ability to lift any sanctions. He has resisted the move.

The new White House communications director said the president was yet to decide whether to sign the bill.

But the Trump administration's press secretary says the White House supports the legislation.

The bill is intended as punishment for alleged Russian meddling in the US election.

Mr Trump's presidency has been dogged by allegations of collusion with Russia during the campaign. Russia has denied interfering and Mr Trump says there was no collusion.

Republican and Democrat leaders reached agreement on the legislation on Saturday, in what is seen as a sign of determination in Congress to maintain a firm line against Russia, whatever Mr Trump's view.

He has argued he needs leeway against Russia and his officials have been lobbying against the bill, which effectively stifles his ability to conduct foreign policy.

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Media captionThe BBC's Sarah Rainsford tries to get Russian pop star Emin Agalarov to comment on his links to Donald Trump.

The legislation would allow new sanctions against Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea as well as for its alleged meddling in the US election.

The bill also covers the possibility of further sanctions against Iran and North Korea. It has already passed the Senate and the House is due to vote on it on Tuesday.

The White House's newly appointed communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, told CNN he did not know the president's view.

"It's my second or third day on the job. My guess is he's going to make that decision shortly," he said. "He hasn't made the decision yet to sign that bill one way or the other."

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But Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave a different account.

"The administration is supportive of being tough on Russia, particularly in putting these sanctions in place," she said.

"The original piece of legislation was poorly written but we were able to work with House and Senate and the administration is happy with the ability to do that and make those changes that were necessary and we support where the legislation is now."

The president could veto the bill, but in doing so would fuel suspicion that he is too supportive of the Kremlin, correspondents say.

On the other hand, if he signs it he would be imposing legislation that his administration has opposed.

The US already has a raft of sanctions in place against Russian individuals and companies over Crimea. In December, following claims of election hacking, then President Barack Obama also expelled 35 diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in the US.


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