The White House is planning to communicate with House Republicans about how to weaken legislation recently passed by the Senate that would enforce new sanctions on Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, according to a report Saturday.
The Trump administration is looking to tamp down, but not kill, the legislation that would also set up a congressional review process if President Trump tried to ease sanctions on Russia, an unnamed senior administration official told Politico.
If true, the Trump administration's actions would follow Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warning in recent testimony that stronger sanctions against Russia could hinder "the flexibility" to work toward thawing relations between the U.S. and Russia. The new sanctions, which the Senate overwhelmingly passed 98-2 on Thursday, come as Trump continues to fight any suggestion that his campaign might have worked with Russian officials. A federal and a number of congressional probes are looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The Russian sanctions were included as part of a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill. A number of Democrats in the report expressed concerns about a watered-down bill.
"I'm concerned about it, but I don't really have the ability to dictate what the White House says to the House," Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told Politico. "I can't imagine the House would want to be apologists for Russian behavior after the combined weight of the intelligence communities all weighing in saying, ‘Look, they attacked the United States.'"
The Obama administration had administered sanctions against Russia for its aggression against Ukraine, and another round was put in place in December, along with ordering dozens of diplomats out of the country, in retaliation against Russia's alleged election hacking.