Proposed bill highlights split between Trump and Congress
Proposed Senate legislation to impose sanctions on Russia over allegations it tried to influence the U.S. presidential election are an attempt to prolong the harm already done to U.S.-Russian ties, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.
“That’s the internal affair of the United States but we see continuing attempts to exclude any kind of dialog between our two countries and attempts, blow-by-blow, to do further harm to the prospects for our bilateral relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters when asked about the legislation.
Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senators Ben Cardin and Robert Menendez said on Monday they would introduce legislation to impose “comprehensive” sanctions on Russia over its attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election.
Peskov said separate U.S. sanctions announced on Monday, on several Russian officials linked to the so-called Magnitsky Affair, were fresh steps towards the “degradation of relations” between Moscow and Washington.
The proposed bill “would impose visa bans and freeze the assets of people “who engage in significant activities undermining the cybersecurity of public or private infrastructure and democratic institutions” or assist in such activities.
The bill’s sponsors have said that it relates not only to Russian government-ordered hacking during the election campaign, but also to Moscow’s actions in Syria (where it is backing President Bashar al-Assad) and Ukraine (where it is covertly using its military to support separatist rebels).
The bill bring into focus a fault line running through Washington inasmuch as traditional and widespread suspicion of Russia on Capitol Hill (and among the country’s intelligence agencies) stands in stark contrast to President-elect Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for improving relations.
The bill is being introduced a day before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds its confirmation hearing for Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, former ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson.
Many lawmakers from both parties have raised questions about the decades Tillerson spent working with Russia‘s government as an executive at the oil company, and his ties to Putin. His hearing, set for Wednesday and Thursday, is expected to largely focus on those issues.