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Popping the Bubble #11: Russian sanctions and the memo

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Reena Mathews's “Popping the Bubble” is a series in which she covers some of the biggest news of the past two weeks. This week’s installment marks the eleventh chapter of this biweekly series.

Andrew Harrer

Andrew Harrer

Russian sanction

In July of 2017, Congress voted in favor of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) in an uncharacteristically unanimous vote of 517 to 5. As such, the act made its way through the House and Senate all the way to the President, who reluctantly lent his sign of approval.

With that, the act was written into law, putting up sanctions against Iran and North Korea for their long-standing interest in intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The other part of the law implemented rules for sanctions against Russia in response to their annexations of Crimea, their meddling in the 2016 election, and more. The bill was meant to target Russian energy, defensive, and intelligence sectors and also imposed limits on the President’s power to reduce these sanctions.

Trump was not happy with signing this bill; he disliked what he thought were “unconstitutional provisions” and the bill’s attempt to rein in executive powers.

Then in October, Trump failed to “issue regulations or guidance to specify” those that may be connected to the Russian government, as per the deadline instated by the bill. In fact, the Trump administration took an extra three weeks to submit to these demands.

But the more important deadline arrived at the close of January.

By midnight on Jan 29, the administration was meant to issue a “Putin List” (list of those tied to Putin). They just barely met this deadline.

The administration was also directed to impose sanctions on countries doing “significant business” with individuals from the October list, an effort to discourage countries from purchasing Russian arms and in turn damage the Russian arms industry.

Still, the Trump administration declined to abide by these terms, a decision that has enraged many, especially considering the undisputed Congressional support for this bill.

State Department official Heather Nauert attempted to defend the administration’s actions, arguing that foreign governments are beginning to abandon business with Russia without the aid of CAATSA legislation. However, Nauert failed to provide evidence for this defense.

The White House also defended themselves by citing the ambiguity of “significant business” and other terms left undefined in the bill.

Personally, while there are perhaps flaws in CAATSA- especially considering our close relationship with many countries that purchase arms from Russia- I think the Trump administration’s unabashed rejection of what is written into law is a dangerous threat to our democracy.

Release the Memo

Last week calls to #releasethememo were heard in all corners of social media. This demand for transparency was instigated when word got out about a memo written by Devon Nunes, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, that exposed the anti-Trump biases held by the Department of Justice and FBI by delineating the corruption that took place during their Trump campaign and Mueller investigations. The most specific point of contention was the warrant on former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page, who was suspected of working for the Russians.

So, the House Intelligence Committee voted in favor of the release of this secret memo. Republicans were eager to see the public exhibition of the DOJ and FBI’s unfair anti-Trump biases. Democrats countered this, claiming that the contents of the memo were inaccurate. The FBI also expressed their disapproval of the publication of the memo, calling it a threat to national security.

Then, last Wednesday night, Democrat Adam Schiff tweeted out a letter to the Committee, as he claimed that Nunes made unapproved “material changes” to the memo that had been sent to the White House.

A spokesman for the Committee fired back, calling the changes “grammatical fixes” and edits that had been “requested by the FBI and the minority themselves.”

The FBI chimed in too, further stressing their “grave concerns” about “omissions of fact” in the memo that they had only been given “limited opportunity” to look at before it was to be voted on.

Nevertheless, the memo was indeed released on Friday with the approval of the Intelligence Committee and President Trump.

One of the most notable parts of the memo has to do with former Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, who allegedly declared to the Committee that the Page warrant would not have been taken out without the Steele dossier, put together by former British spy Christopher Steele who was secretly funded by the DNC.

Regardless, this memo is Nunes’s word. Sources are even contending that McCabe never, in fact, said these things.

This is just a small portion of what the memo consists of; read the full document here.

And as of now, the Committee has voted in favor of releasing the Democrats’ rebuttal to the memo, and we are awaiting a response from the White House.

 

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