President Donald Trump will sign a bill imposing sanctions against Russia, the White House announced Friday night.
The legislation enshrines into law sanctions that the Obama White House placed on the country for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and imposes some new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
It may seem like an odd move for Trump. In public — and even on Twitter Saturday morning — the president has vehemently denied that Russia sought to influence the 2016 election in his favor, despite the fact that it’s the consensus view of the national security agencies he leads. It’s “fake news” he’s said, over, and over, and over.
But, as Vox’s Zeeshan Aleem has explained, Congress “has handcuffed” Trump on this issue. It passed the Russian sanctions bill with a veto-proof majority (419-3 in the house, and 98-to-2 in the Senate).
By signing the bill, Trump avoids a potentially embarrassing moment where members of his own party vote to override his decision.
The bill also limits the president’s power to roll back sanctions, establishing a “congressional review process that would allow Congress to block the White House from taking steps to ease sanctions if it wanted to,” as Aleem wrote. (Also remarkable: Congress passed a major piece of bipartisan legislation that limits the president’s powers.)
The move is likely to further strain the diplomatic relationship between the US and Russia. Already, on Friday, Russia announced it was cutting the number of US diplomats in the country, and has threatened to seize facilities used by US diplomats.