WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed into law Wednesday bipartisan legislation placing new sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, but claimed multiple aspects of the legislation violate the constitution.
The legislation, which passed through Congress with a veto-proof majority, sanctions North Korea for its advancing missile and nuclear program, which are in violation of Untied Nations Security Council resolutions. It sanctions Iran for its missile program and support for terrorist groups, and Russia for its alleged meddling in the 2016 election and role in the Syria and Ukraine conflicts.
The White House released two statements nearly simultaneously from Trump following the signing. The first statement largely focuses on the administration’s argument on the unconstitutionality of the bill, while the second is more political in nature.
In the first statement, Trump said that he favors “tough measures to punish and deter aggressive and destabilizing behavior” of Iran, North Korea and Russia. In the second, Trump labels Iran and North Korea as “rogue regimes,” and said he supports making clear that the U.S. “will not tolerate interference in our democratic process, and that we will side with our allies and friends against Russian subversion and destabilization.”
In both statements Trump called the legislation “flawed.” In the first statement Trump called the legislation “clearly unconstitutional” for limiting the executive’s ability to conduct foreign negotiations. Trump alludes to his position on the matter in the second statement.
“In its haste to pass this legislation, the Congress included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions,” Trump said in the first statement. “My Administration particularly expects the Congress to refrain from using this flawed bill to hinder our important work with European allies to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, and from using it to hinder our efforts to address any unintended consequences it may have for American businesses, our friends, or our allies.”
Trump in the second statement hit Congress for its inability to negotiate. “Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking,” Trump said.
He also praises his own ability to negotiate. “I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress,” Trump said.
Trump in the second statement said that he decided to sign the bill, despite its flaws “for the sake of national unity.”
In the same statement, Trump notes that his administration worked to “make this bill better,” giving the Treasury more flexibility and reflecting feedback from European allies who were concerned about the negative effects the bill could have on their business pursuits.
Lawmakers from both sides of the isle expressed support for Trump’s decision to sign the bill, which passed through the House 419-3 and later the Senate 98-2. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a statement called Trump’s concerns “hardly surprising, though misplaced.”
“The Framers of our Constitution made the Congress and the President coequal branches of government. This bill has already proven the wisdom of that choice,” McCain said, mirroring language Trump used in his second statement.
“On this critical issue of national security policy, it was the Congress that acted in the spirit of national unity to carry out the will of the American people,” McCain said. “… Going forward, I hope the President will be as vocal about Russia’s aggressive behavior as he was about his concerns with this legislation.”