Trump faces key deadline on Russia sanctions

The Trump administration is facing a key deadline on implementing sanctions against Russia for its election interference and other activities.

By the start of October, the administration is required to issue guidance on who is part of Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. The individuals named will be targeted under a new sanctions law; the guidance will also determine what entities will be off-limits to U.S. and other businesses. 

The guidance will provide more clarity to lawmakers, businesses, and others on how Trump plans to apply the sanctions power. 

“The administration is going to need to be able to define this in a way that doesn’t kind of throw EU allies under the bus, doesn’t throw non-EU allies under the bus,” said Brian O’Toole, an economic sanctions expert who worked at the Treasury between 2009 and 2017, at Atlantic Council event in Washington on Friday.

“It will be interesting to see how they scope this,” O’Toole said. “That will give us a lot more insight into how these sanctions are going to be applied.”

The guidance could reveal whether Trump plans to bring the full force of the sanctions law against Moscow or instead lessen the blow of penalties. 

“I think Congress wanted to give the administration flexibility to come up with an implementing plan,” said Peter Harrell, a former State Department official under Obama who worked on sanctions issues.  

“The question then becomes, will the Trump administration use the flexibility appropriately to deal with hard issues, or will they use the flexibility to really minimize the intended impact of the sanctions?”

Trump begrudgingly signed the Russia sanctions bill into law at the start of August after Congress passed it with a veto-proof majority. 

He slammed the bill, which restricts his ability to ease penalties on Moscow, as “seriously flawed” and said it contained “a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions.” 

While the law was intended to tie Trump’s…

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