Donald Trump is waking up on Friday to find he has a bill to sign. However, his usual joy in making his seismographic squiggle of a signature might be a bit hard to locate this time. Because what the Senate has sent him isn’t his much-desired opportunity to dance on President Obama’s legacy. It’s the Russian sanctions bill.
The Senate on Thursday delivered Donald Trump the first big bipartisan rebuke of his presidency, giving final approval to a package of sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea that constrains his bid to defrost relations with Moscow.
The sanctions specifically target the areas of Russia’s economy that it depends on to fund military activities: mining and oil. That includes the deal made by currently-in-hiding Secretary of State Rex Tillerson while he was helming Exxon. The legislation not only locks down the sanctions that President Obama put in place following Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, it makes it difficult for Trump to lift those sanctions on his own.
So signing the bill would both punish Russia for something that Trump doesn’t want to admit happened and limit Trump’s powers. And it’s not as if this squeaked through with little but Democratic votes.
The Senate voted 98-2 to approve the sanctions bill that cleared the House earlier this week. Trump must now decide whether to sign a measure that allows Congress to block any attempt to ease or end penalties against Vladimir Putin's government and imposes new sanctions in response to a Russian electoral disruption campaign that the president continues to dispute.
Whether or not Trump will sign the bill is still an open question. There hasn’t been any definite statement that the Congress should expect to see it come boomeranging back, but he also hasn’t said he will sign it.
The White House has avoided taking a clear position on the sanctions legislation all week, with communications director Anthony Scaramucci telling CNN on Thursday that Trump "may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are, or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians."
Even if Trump indulges himself in a moment of pique and turns the bill around, the vote totals indicate that both chambers should have little trouble overriding any Trump veto. In fact, sending it back would only be an invitation for Congress to again show what they think of Trump.
They don’t trust you, Donald. They really don’t trust you. Especially not with anything to do with Russia.