By Miriam Raftery
February 7, 2018 (Washington D.C.) – President Donald Trump has defied Congress, refusing to impose sanctions against Russia passed by Congress before Monday’s deadline. The law required the President to sanction companies or individuals doing significant business with Russian defense and intelligence entities, moves that aimed to punish Russia for meddling in the U.S. presidential election including hacking into several U.S. states’ election systems.
Trump has instead sought closer ties between Russia and the U.S.
A spokesperson for the State Department has claimed that the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” was already serving as a deterrent without the need for the President to take any formal action.
Critics say sanctions are critical to try and dissuade Russia from trying to tamper with future elections, as well as punishment for its past actions.
Meanwhile President Trump’s attorneys are reported to be advising the President not to talk to Special Counsel Robert Mueller regarding the investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Multiple members of Trump’s campaign team have already pled guilty or been indicted on charges related to that probe including a charge of conspiring against the United States.
Trump’s argument hinges on his claim that the President cannot be indicted and thus arguably cannot be compelled to testify.
However legal scholars say that Mueller is on solid constitutional ground if he issues a subpoena to compel the President to talk to him under oath, since several prior presidents in both parties have testified in criminal investigations. Bill Clinton testified on the Monica Lewinski affair, Ronald Reagan on Iran-Contra, Ulysses S. Grant on the Whiskey Ring scandal, Jimmy Carter gave testimony in a criminal matter unrelated to his presidency and Gerald Ford testified in the trial of a woman who tried to kill him.
Also, the Supreme Court has forced presidents to turn over records that presidents attempted unsuccessful to keep confidential, including Ronald Reagan’s diaries during the Iran-Contra scandal probe and White House tapes during the Watergate investigation in President Richard Nixon’s era.