Trump Cornered: White House Pushing To Weaken Russia Sanctions Bill

Tyler Durden's picture

After the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to implement new sanctions against Russia over "interference in the 2016 U.S. elections" and curbs President Trump’s power to ease penalties against Moscow in the future - without consultations with US allies in Europe -  President Trump has found himself cornered in what appears to be a lose-lose position.

On one hand, the bill prompted an unexpectedly angry response by Germany and Austria, both of whom who have invested hundreds of millions into the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would pump Russian gas to Germany beneath the Baltic Sea, and who said the bill is trying to help American natural gas suppliers at the expense of their Russian rivals. On Friday, Germany went so far as saying the bill "must not happen" with German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries saying "Berlin would have to think about counter-measures" if Trump - or the House - backed the plan. "If he does, we'll have to consider what we are going to do against it."

Nord Stream 2

Even the EU slammed the Senate's passage of the bill. According to Reuters, some European diplomats said they fear the threat of new measures out of Washington may harden Germany's defense of Nord Stream and complicate already difficult talks among EU nations over whether to seek joint talks with Russia over the pipeline. "This is not helpful now. It tends to stir up desires to protect our territorial space," one EU diplomat said.

On the other hand, any attempt by Trump to prevent the bill from passing - despite the outcry of America's closest allies in Europe - would be immediately seen as a further attempt by Trump to cede to his "Russian spy masters" and be immediately spun by the "objective" press as confirmation of leverage the Kremlin has over the president, who is already neck deep in allegations he has colluded with Russia.  

In other words, the outcome of the new Russian sanctions would force Trump in a position of choosing between an escalation of domestic attacks over his "allegiance" to Russia, or burning even more bridges with European allies such as Germany, Austria, France and other nations invested in Nord Stream 2, who have warned the US not to proceed with the sanctions.

On Saturday, it appeared that Trump appears to have chosen the latter option, because the "White House is expected to push House Republicans to change the Senate’s Russia sanctions bill to make it more friendly to Russia."

According to Politico, a senior administration official said that the White House is concerned that the bill will hurt U.S.-Russia relations and the administration is hoping to work with Republicans in the House to soften the bill. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown told Politico that he has heard the Trump administration is asking House members to “slow and block” the legislation. “This is not something the administration is calling for us to do,” Brown said of the stronger sanctions, adding that he applauds "the courage of a number of my Republican colleagues who said no to the administration and did the right thing for the country to keep a foreign power out of our elections.”

Other democrats similarly chimed in: “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.) said in an interview. “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’.” Rep. Krysten Sinema responded to the report in a tweet Saturday, urging the U.S. to hold Russia accountable with “strong sanctions.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to express concern about the bill this week in a House Foreign Affairs hearing. "I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions," he told lawmakers. Of course, Tillerson too is in the media's "pro-Russia" cross hairs, due to his friendly relationship with Putin during his tenure as Exxon CEO, and he knows it: should he push too hard to preserve relations with Russia - and Europe - on the level, a "Tillerson dossier" may just emerge next.

According to Politico, it’s so far unclear how the House GOP would receive any White House "entreaties to restore some of Trump’s power over sanctions that the Senate voted to claw back. House Republicans have started to review the Senate-passed bill and are likely to take it up in the coming weeks, according to an aide."

Sadly, the Politico article does not mention a key part of the story, namely the broad European outcry at the Senate's bill, a "minor detail" which has broad implications for US foreign policy, and which could quickly spill over into domestic politics. After all, should Europe burn bridges with the US and "retaliate" this time over an act of Senate which the White House was against, it will be used by the press to exhibit how clueless Trump's foreign policy is, even though the president was effectively entrapped by both Senate Democrats and Republicans into the current situation.

Of course, should Trump veto the vote, he will never hear the end of it.

A lose-lose situation.

* * *

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Russia's state news agency RIA reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that the new sanctions under consideration would damage relations between the two countries, but it was too early to talk about retaliation. "This will, indeed, complicate Russia-American relations. I think this is harmful," Putin said according to Reuters adding he needed to see how the situation with sanctions evolved.

"That is why it is premature to speak publicly about our retaliatory actions," RIA quoted him as saying. Putin also said that Russia would be forced to make changes because of the sanctions, but they wouldn't lead to a "collapse."

Putin previously dismissed the proposed sanctions, saying they reflected an internal political struggle in the United States, and that Washington had always used such methods as a means of trying to contain Russia. Which, ironically, was a far more calm response than the one offered by US allies such as Germany who have made it clear in no uncertain terms that should the bill in its current format pass, they would retaliate.

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deth's picture

No misread from my perspective.

ogretown's picture

I have read some of Putin's comments regarding these ridiculous new sanctions, very balanced and laid back.  And that is the right way to play the game. Germany and Austria are vexed and hopefully Putin is making the most of that situation.  If this trend continues it will not be long before people like McCain and his "Death to America" Democrat allies wake up one day to discover there is only one country left moving towards a  non-winnable nuclear war against Russia. I would like to see President Trump do all in his power to void these sanctions and be very public about it.  Reason: when every nation (except Israel, of course) in the United Nations demands an investigation pertaining to American war mongering, Trump gets a pass.  

artichoke's picture

Maybe Trump can use this to extract some better actions esp. from Germany, with the promise that if Merkel stops acting like Merkel, Trump will veto the bill.  And Trump can explain that was the deal, because our national interest was a change in German policy.

artichoke's picture

Democrats trying to Watergate Trump.  This sort of thing was also an aspect of that case.  I recall Nixon was so involved in some international situation it prevented him from most effectively dealing with the Watergate controversy.  He did what was right internationally and ended up sacrificing his presidency.

The Dems, of course, want to push the same choice in front of Trump.  It worked once, they are determined to do it again.

Damn them.  May they and their families pay the price personally.  A bit at first, and then if they don't stop it, much more.  I ask God to handle this.

WTFUD's picture

I don't give a rats ass for the Dems, it's their prerogative to disrupt. It's the Enemy Within Trump's OWN ( tongue in cheek ) PARTY.

artichoke's picture

If Trump's going to veto this, a "pocket veto" is appropriate i.e. just don't sign it and wait for the time limit to run out.

sister tika's picture

Mitch McConnell and Eddie Munster must fight over who will smoke Soros' Zionist pole every night. Both have swallowed the "Russia done it" meme hook, line and sinker.

Meanwhile, Mr. Putin shakes head in disgust and prepares Russia for an unpleasant future.

Dude-dude's picture

Putin's counter-sanctions against produce from EU/NATO member countries has led to 10,000 new jobs in the Russian produce sector - see Putin's recent open Q&A.  Indeed Farmers are afraid that sanctions may be lifted, leading to the lifting of counter sanctions by Russia.  It seems the more the BS of A .gov sanctions Russia, the more their economy grows!  Putin is eating popcorn and thinking bring it on, on this one.

Give Me Some Truth's picture

When your adversary is busy screwing the pooch ... let him. 

Putin probably doesn't have to do anything.

WTFUD's picture

If only, if only Trump and the Republicans had control of both Houses! s/c

Deal with the treasonous scum in the Republican Party, severely.

Sofa King's picture

I know we're living in the fucking Bizzaro world and all but isn't the Executive Branch responsible for developing foreign policy and the Legislative Brach responsible for implementation. Not the other way around. And who the fuck is paying for Senators and Congresssmen to fly around the world making promises to other countries? Someone needs to reign this shit it. It's really starting to get under my fucking skin.

Those motherfuckers need to sit their ass down and take care of business in the country. It's falling the fuck apart.

I read the polls that show that Trumps approval rating is in the toilet and it's being completely mis-interpreted as a positive for democrats. All that means is that next time around, voters will be looking for someone more extreme. It will keep getting worse until this shit starts getting fixed or it's going to get way the fuck violent. And based on the number of weapons in private possession in this's going to be fucked up.

TheLastTrump's picture

Popularity polls are more reliable then other types of polls that have been proven unreliable over the last couple of years?


I suspect that Donald Trump would win even more bigly if the vote was held today.


America ALWAYS loved the underdog.

Ms No's picture

They put those latest sanctions on Russia right after Vlad told the truth about the US' long term funding of terrorism, in a an interview seen by millions of Americans who somehow didn't already know.  Up until recently Russia has been playing very nice.  He drew few lines but of course the US recently crossed them.  Vlad is getting pissed off now and he will likely start using leverage.  The biggest weakness of the empire is the truth.  He knows it and he can prove it.  Unleash the kraken!!  Now would be a good time for him to release the intelligence, surveillance and video evidence that he certainly has, of spec ops and the CIA training and arming ISIS.

Stormtrooper's picture

Where can I sign up to become a Russian hacker?  How's the pay?

SRV's picture

And none of the 17 agencies were allowed to see the servers... that were wiped clean after paid contractors with close ties to The Crook "confirmed" the Russian hacking!

Why in hell doesn't the Trump team scream this until someone listens?

It was a leak, not a hack, and all the so called evidence was destroyed last year!

gold rubeberg's picture

"In other words, the outcome of the new Russian sanctions would force Trump in a position of choosing between an escalation of domestic attacks over his "allegiance" to Russia, or burning even more bridges with European allies such as Germany, Austria, France and other nations invested in Nord Stream 2, who have warned the US not to proceed with the sanctions."

That choice seems simple. Trump is facing escalating domestic attacks anyway. There is almost nothing he could do effectively without it being met with vitriol from his detractors. Meanwhile while our European friends get a lot of stuff wrong, they have a point on this one.

luna_man's picture


Give the clowns what they want...See how they like it.


Clowns need to be taught a lesson.

captain-nemo's picture

They are hurting the globalists in the EU more than they hurt the Russian. That is a good thing.  

null's picture

They wasted their credibility.
Trump can do the right thing about whatever and it will not look like anything bad, other than to those whom he could never please.

IronForge's picture

Once the One Road One Belt Projects?  overtake EU-USA Trade Revenue for TEAM_EU Members, all bets are off.  



artichoke's picture

Seems there are some problems to be ironed out with Pakistan, and debt generally there.  Any progress on those points?  Because the project is much less compelling if the belt cannot be completed.

hooligan2009's picture

there was no russian interference in the US elections.

the majority of senators benefit financially from sanctions against russia.

the bill could fail in the house of representatives or trump can veto the bill.

there are hundreds of billions of profits in dollars that could be made over decades with "detente" and economic co-operation with russia.

but those profits would ot accrue to senators, they would accrue to oridnary russians and emericans and the senate will not allow that to happen, since they woll become relatively poorer, compared to ordinary citizens.

the dems are the most frantic to maintain superiority by repressing people - i wonder why.

could it be that their mantra of "tax, repress, divert and spend" is under threat and their sponsored libtard business cartels cannot compete on a level playing field?

rkoen's picture

Now the democrats go on to destroy world economies with their hoaxes....  great.

bshirley1968's picture

"On the other hand, any attempt by Trump to prevent the bill from passing - despite the outcry of America's closest allies in Europe - would be immediately seen as a further attempt by Trump to cede to his "Russian spy masters" and be immediately spun by the "objective" press as confirmation of leverage the Kremlin has over the president, who is already neck deep in allegations he has colluded with Russia. "

Maybe that was the play all along.  Makes perfect sense when you look a the big picture.

P.S. We don't give a shit what the Germans think.  When they get rid of that bitch, Merkel,  and quit taking in scores of muslims, they may get some credibility. 

Herdee's picture

Big mistake trying the "exceptionalism" bullshit on Europeans. I like American people but it's the federal government and their stupid, poorly thought out policies that generate this " Yankee-go- home" hatred, which of couse shouldn't be directed at ordinary working Americans but you have a so-called "class" of politicians in Washington right now that have even gone as far as bombing and destroying whole countries in the MiddleEast. If you go to Trends Research or the Trends Journal by Gerald Celente he says " payback is always a bitch". If you lived in any of these areas like Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria and saw your parents, grangparents or children brutally murdered by bombing, you'd learn to hate as well. But trying the Washington bullshit on educated Europeans isn't going to work. It shows the limit right now and the peak of hysteria about F'n nonsense of Russiaphobia. Who believes any of the war criminals anyways? Bill Clinton, Bush jr., Hussein Obama, Hitlery Clinton, John McCain, they're all war criminals that should stand trial for murdering millions of innocent people.They're know different than Nazi, jack booted thugs and when exposed nothing but two-bit, snott nosed punks, just like the low-lifes trying to destroy a democratically elected American Administration today.

artichoke's picture

Trump could say he won't sign such a bill until he sees the result of the Senate "Russia" investigation.  Rubio said on TV today that Trump would learn about the Russian hacking when he reads their report, and that that would take at least til the end of the year (maybe Angus King said that part.)

Why should Trump approve sanctions based on alleged misdeeds that are still being investigated?