Forget Trump’s tax returns: Congress wants to know what Putin is worth

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who spearheaded the legislation, called it “the sanctions bill from hell” earlier this week.
August 3, 2018, 3:39pm

The Senate wants to do what Donald Trump failed to during his summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month: stand up to the Kremlin for its ongoing efforts to undermine the U.S. democracy.

Senators from both sides of the aisle introduced legislation Thursday that will impose stiff new sanctions on Russia as punishment for its meddling in U.S. elections, as well as military interventions in Syria and Ukraine. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who spearheaded the legislation, called it “the sanctions bill from hell” earlier this week.

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If passed, the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018 will impact real estate deals and the oil and gas industry, as well as impose new sanctions on Russian political figures and oligarchs, including calling for a report on the net worth and assets of Russian Vladimir Putin. The bill would also place restrictions on new Russian sovereign debt transactions and Russian imports of uranium.

The new sanctions “will bring to bear the full condemnation of the United States Congress so that Putin finally understands that the U.S. will not tolerate his behavior any longer,” Democratic Senator Bob Menendez said.

The bill seeks to toughen a sanctions bill introduced last summer, one which the president reluctantly signed only after passing Congress with huge majorities. But Trump has yet to comment on the new bill, and it’s unclear if he’d sign, pending its passage in the House and Senate.

“The current sanctions regime has failed to deter Russia from meddling in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections,” Graham said.

In addition to imposing new sanctions, the bill calls for the establishment of new entities designed to counter Russia’s actions in cyberspace. These include a National Fusion Center to Respond to Hybrid Threats, which aims to better prepare and respond to disinformation and other emerging threats.

The proposals come just days after Facebook deleted 32 accounts and pages the social media company said were involved in an ongoing influence campaign that researchers have strongly linked to the Kremlin.

Responding to the new legislation, Sergei Sudakov, member of the Academy of Military Sciences, said that being cut off from the global banking system presents the most serious threat, but he added that Russia will create its own financial hub with China in six months time.

Cover image: Russian hacker Sergey Pavlovich, better known by his former online alias Police Dog, holds a mock money printing plate with Russian President Vladimir Putin, bottom, and US President Donald Trump, center, faces in place of Benjamin Franklin during an interview with the Associated Press in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)