A double header tonight on Russia, first up, given the Trump regime's multiple failed attempts to remove sanctions against Russia, it looks like the Senate is taking that option out of Trump's hands.
Senators have struck a deal to put a comprehensive Russia sanctions bill on the floor this week, according to those negotiating the legislation.
The measure, which will be attached to a bill to stiffen Iran sanctions that is under consideration, incorporates proposals to codify existing Russia sanctions, introduce punitive measures against Moscow in light of Russia’s aggressive activities in Ukraine, introduce measures addressing Syria and the realm of cyberhacking, and give Congress the power to review efforts by the administration to scale back sanctions against Russia before they can go through.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed the amendment late Monday, setting up a vote for later this week, after extensive talks with Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Democrat, Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.), Banking Committee ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and vocal Russia critics John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) were also involved in various stages of the discussion.
“This is a very comprehensive piece of legislation,” Corker said Monday night after the measures were introduced. “It really touches all the components.”
Various senators involved in the discussions had filed three different bills to increase sanctions against Russia over its involvement in the wars in Ukraine and Syria, as well as over allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Some proposed bills also included measures to give Congress the power to block the president from easing up on sanctions against Russia and to better counter Russian propaganda in the United States and Europe.
Corker said that he had drafted a fourth bill about three months ago addressing several of the points, but that his office had never released it.
The measure filed Monday night directs sanctions toward Russia’s intelligence and defense apparatus, as well as parts of its energy, mining, railways and shipping economy. It also includes provisions to punish those engaged in corruption and human rights abuses.
Tacking this on to the Iran sanctions bill is clever, meaning it will get GOP support (as well as force Trump to swallow it.) Senator Brown yesterday all but said that the measure has enough votes to override any possible Trump veto attempt, and the House won't be a problem here. Senator Corker too believes this will pass with well more than 67 votes.
Trump's boss in Moscow won't be happy. That's because the other big Russia story has to do with their interference in our elections, it wasn't just a few states, but 39.
Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.
In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.
The scope and sophistication so concerned Obama administration officials that they took an unprecedented step -- complaining directly to Moscow over a modern-day “red phone.” In October, two of the people said, the White House contacted the Kremlin on the back channel to offer detailed documents of what it said was Russia’s role in election meddling and to warn that the attacks risked setting off a broader conflict.
The new details, buttressed by a classified National Security Agency document recently disclosed by the Intercept, show the scope of alleged hacking that federal investigators are scrutinizing as they look into whether Trump campaign officials may have colluded in the efforts. But they also paint a worrisome picture for future elections: The newest portrayal of potentially deep vulnerabilities in the U.S.’s patchwork of voting technologies comes less than a week after former FBI Director James Comey warned Congress that Moscow isn’t done meddling.
“They’re coming after America,” Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the election. “They will be back.”
A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington declined to comment on the agency’s probe.
Again, the easiest way to ensure Republican dominance was to have someone take out as many Democratic voters as possible out of the voter databases, since the GOP was in the process of doing that anyway. The result: Trump won the electoral college by fewer than 100,000 votes in the right four states, all states that showed dramatic reductions in black voter turnout.
We'll see what the White House does here.