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Here’s what is in the Senate’s new Russia sanctions

June 15, 2017 at 6:35 PM EDT
The Senate overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against both Iran and Russia on Thursday. While the overall bill is aimed at Iran's missile program, an amendment expands sanctions on Russia for meddling in last year's election, and another amendment affects the president’s ability to roll back sanctions. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to take a closer look at the details.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As we reported earlier in the program, the Senate today overwhelmingly passed new sanctions against Iran. But a key amendment makes that bill even broader. It now includes sanctions aimed at Russia. This is five months after U.S. intelligence agencies made public that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered cyber-interference in the 2016 election.

Lisa Desjardins has been following the vote, and she joins me now.

So, Lisa, tell us what these Russia sanctions are.

LISA DESJARDINS: These are not just symbolic, Judy. These are significant sanctions.

Let’s take a quick look. First of all, they target Russian industries, especially the energy sector. Those sanctions would include things limiting U.S. companies, prohibiting them from working with Russian firms, say, exploring the Arctic. That’s a big deal.

Also, this would target individuals working in defense or intelligence, individual Russians. There are some new powers in here. The Treasury would get access to U.S. bank records of Russian oligarchs. Also, $250 million for a countering Russia influence fund that would focus on cyber-security, but also could be some U.S. propaganda.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, separately, the Senate passed an amendment to this that affects the president. Tell us about that.

LISA DESJARDINS: This is remarkable, Judy.

This is a Republican Congress asserting power with a Republican president in office. Let’s look at exactly how that would work. If this president wanted to roll back any of these sanctions, he would have to give Congress 30-day notice under this amendment.

Congress could then disapprove and ultimately block the president from rolling back sanctions with a two-thirds vote. Essentially, Judy, what the Senate is saying here is, we think Congress should set Russia policy now, not the president.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what is the White House saying about all this?

LISA DESJARDINS: The White House today said it’s reviewing these sanctions.

No secret the president is in a very tricky position here, not just because of this Russia investigation, but because he and his secretary of state have said they don’t think this is a good time to increase sanctions on Russia. They think it could backfire.

But it’s interesting, Judy, the Senate attached these Russia sanctions to an Iran sanctions bill that the president wants to sign. Meanwhile, Democrats are worried about the Iran sanctions, worried that that could cause problems with the Iran deal, which leaves the president deciding, does he swallow these Russia sanctions that go with an Iran deal he likes at a time of the Russia investigation?

We have to wait and see.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And in two seconds, if the president were to veto this, the assumption is, it would be overridden?

LISA DESJARDINS: That’s correct. It passed with 98 votes in the Senate. Absolutely, they would override that veto.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, thank you.