(CNN) – The Trump administration rejects powerful legislation aimed at deterring and punishing Russian aggression and its interference in the 2016 elections.
In a 22-page letter to Congress dated Tuesday, a senior State Department official described a series of concerns about the bill, calling it "unnecessary" and needing "significant changes."
"The Administration shares the objective of deterring and counteracting Russian subversion and aggression," the assistant secretary of the Office of Legislative Affairs Mary Elizabeth Taylor wrote in the letter, which was obtained by CNN. However, he said the administration "strongly opposes" the bill in its current form.
The Daily Beast It was the first medium to report on the content of the letter, sent exactly one week after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
Russia's sanctions have been a constant source of dispute between the Trump White House and Congress, where there has been strong bipartisan support for measures to punish Moscow since its annexation of Crimea in 2014. The conclusion of the intelligence community of USA that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections to benefit Trump, and warnings from officials of the previous and current administration that he will meddle again in 2020 have put urgency on Congress efforts.
However, the president has constantly urged to improve relations with Russia and has shown an affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter, which said that the administration opposes the bill because "it runs the risk of paralyzing the world markets for energy, commodities, financial and others."
A bipartisan group of senators, including a Trump ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, introduced the "DASKA" bill in February. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced the bill to the full Senate on Wednesday for a vote not expected until next year.
On Wednesday, Graham said he was "incredibly satisfied with the overwhelming bipartisan support for my legislation."
"This strong vote indicates an overwhelming desire by the Senate as a whole to reject Russian interference in our elections and Putin's misadventures around the world," Graham said, noting that he is willing to make adjustments to the bill. . "I am committed to working with my colleagues to improve this legislation, but it must be strong to make sense," he said.
‘It must be strong’
The legislation would force the administration to assess whether Russia is a state sponsor of terrorism and hit Russia with a series of additional sanctions. A two-thirds Senate vote would be required if Trump decides to leave NATO and includes measures to combat disinformation and Russian cybercrimes. In addition, it would also require a series of reports on Russian illegal activities worldwide.
In his letter, the Trump administration argued that the bill is too inflexible and would "divert resources from the ongoing aggressive attack by Russian evil actors under existing authorities … as well as efforts regarding Iran, North Korea. , ISIS, Venezuela, Hezbollah, counterterrorism, human rights and corruption and other priorities (of the United States government). ”
The administration also said that "it has aggressively imposed sanctions that are directed, adapted and impactful to address Russian evil activities while mitigating the negative effects on allies and close partners that these authorities use."
Samuel Charap, a leading political scientist at the RAND Corporation, said that no administration likes legislative sanctions outside of Congress, adding that "there is a good reason for that."
"If the sanctions are about changing the behavior of another State, then the promise of relief from the sanctions must be credible," Charap said. "If it requires the approval of Congress, that limits the ability of the Executive branch of the government to make credible promises that it will relieve sanctions" to reward a change in behavior.
The tension between lawmakers and the White House over Russia's sanction reflects a broader dynamic, Charap said.
"Congress does not trust the president on Russian politics … I think that is what is happening here," he said.
The Trump administration has faced criticism for a long time for its soft approach to Russia. It took more than six months to impose legal sanctions on the Kremlin for poisoning the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the United Kingdom.
In his public rhetoric, Trump has not greatly condemned Russia for its interference in the 2016 US elections or for its illegal annexation of Crimea.
CNN's Kylie Atwood contributed to this rebound