Saturday, September 25, 2021

WH: Trump backs law expanding Russia sanctions, not discussing pardons

Washington, Jul 23 (EFE).- President Donald Trump supports a bill announced on the weekend by Congress to increase sanctions on Russia, in part due to Moscow’s alleged interference in last year’s election, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday.

Sanders told ABC News that Trump supports the bill as it now reads.

The White House has opposed an earlier version of the same bill because it limited Trump’s ability to lift sanctions on Russia.

The revised bill, which also includes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea, retains Trump’s sanction-lifting authority and his ability to make “significant” policy changes toward Russia, although he would have to inform Congress and lawmakers would have 30 days to decide whether or not to allow such changes.

Meanwhile, the White House also said on Sunday that Trump is not considering pardoning his advisors, his family members or himself regarding the Russia probe, one day after the president himself claimed that, as president, he had the “complete” authority to pardon anyone.

The new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, and one of Trump’s personal attorneys, Jay Sekulow, mentioned the issue in separate television interviews.

“The president is not going to have to pardon anybody because the Russia thing is a nonsensical thing,” Scaramucci said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning.

However, in another interview on Fox News, Scaramucci acknowledged that last week he spoke with Trump about the presidential pardon issue.

“I’m in the Oval Office with the president last week, we’re talking about that,” he said, adding that “(Trump) doesn’t have to be pardoned. There’s nobody around him that has to be pardoned. He was just making a statement about the power of pardon.”

Sekulow said on ABC that he had not spoken with Trump about pardons.

“We’re not researching the issue, because the issue of pardons is not on the table,” he said. “There’s nothing to pardon from.”

“Pardons have not been discussed,” Sekulow added.

Trump had said in one of 10 tweets on Saturday that “While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us. FAKE NEWS.”

The president’s tweet came two days after The Washington Post reported that Trump had requested information from his team about his executive authority to issue pardons to his advisors, his family members and himself, and that his lawyers were evaluating how far that authority extends.

US presidents have the authority to pardon individuals for federal crimes but it is not clear if they have the authority to pardon themselves, although that possibility is not explicitly prohibited under the Constitution.

Moreover, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, a central figure in the investigation into Kremlin interference in the 2016 election, returned to Moscow after almost a decade as envoy in the US, the Russian Embassy said.
Kislyak, 66, who had headed his nation’s diplomatic legation in Washington since 2008, “concluded his mission” on Saturday, the embassy said on Twitter.
Taking over temporarily for Kislyak will be Denis V. Gonchar, the No. 2 official at the embassy, the Kremlin said.