Congress targets Russia with sanctions in new bipartisan push

February 14, 2019

Congress is making a renewed effort to combat Russian election interference and broader influence around the world.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sens. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, and Bob Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, unveiled a massive bill that seeks to determine whether Russia is a state sponsor of terror.

Sponsors say it would impose a host of sanctions on the Kremlin for what they say is interference with global democratic institutions, citing Russian aggression in Ukraine. The bill would target “political figures, oligarchs, and family members and other persons that facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”

The legislation also serves as a roadblock to President Trump if he makes moves to leave the NATO alliance and would require a two-thirds majority vote to break from the alliance. Mr. Trump has questioned at times the value of the Western military bloc, but top aides insist he remains committed to the alliance.

Mr. Trump has been widely criticized by lawmakers for his handling of relations with the Kremlin and his personal relationship with Mr. Putin.

“President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress,” Mr. Menendez said, “Congress will protect our institutions, allies and values even if the president chooses not to do so.”

Mr. Graham focused on Russian actions, calling the proposed sanctions “the most hard-hitting ever imposed and a direct result of Putin’s continued desire to undermine American democracy.”