How Trump Weaponized His Signing Statement to Neutralize the Russia Sanctions Bill

by Mopshell –

Trump did not want to sign the The Russia Sanctions Bill. At first he used a simple avoidance technique.

As we reported yesterday: @POTUS has not yet signed Russia sanctions bill, bc WH says it has not yet received the legislation.

That was CNBC’s Washington correspondent Kayla Tausche  who apparently didn’t do any follow up but March For Truth organizer Holly O’Reilly did. (Protest organizers are better investigative journalists than reporters it seems.)

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And lookee here — it was even on the White House website.

Now that we’ve confirmed that the bill was delivered and received on July 28, what do you have to say White House spokesperson? Olivier Knox for Yahoo News reports:

View image on Twitter

White House says Trump hasn’t signed the Russian sanctions yet because of an ongoing “legal review” https://www.yahoo.com/news/white-house-legal-review-holding-russian-sanctions-201250679.html 

An “ongoing legal review”? What on earth could that be about?

Then I came across this tweet but, at the time, I admit I didn’t take a lot of notice…

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…until today.

When I learned that Trump had signed the Russia Sanctions Bill, I went looking for this tweet and the one before it:

If you aren’t familiar with Presidential Signing Statements, I have a feeling they will be coming to the forefront in the next few weeks.

No, I wasn’t familiar with Presidential Signing Statements and I certainly had no idea how one could provide the loophole Trump was so desperate to find. Obviously a little Advanced Civics homework was required.

In The American Presidency Project, I found the following:

A “Signing Statement” is a written comment issued by a President at the time of signing legislation. Often signing statements merely comment on the bill signed, saying that it is good legislation or meets some pressing needs.  The more controversial statements involve claims by presidents that they believe some part of the legislation infringes on the constitutional powers of the presidency, and, therefore, they intend to ignore it or to implement it only in ways they believe is constitutional.  

Turns out the practice dates back to the fifth president, James Monroe. It has been used infrequently by presidents to decree that certain parts of legislation only be enforced on a limited basis, or within a very narrow interpretation, or ignored altogether.

Trump had found his loophole — or rather, someone found it for him (h/t to Sensai56) and explained it over and over until he finally got the general idea… sort of… then found someone to write the serious bits for him.

As Kerry Eleveld noted in her story appropriately titled Trump issues two statements on the Russia sanctions bill: one official, one written in crayon

While the grown-up statement on “H.R. 3364, the ‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,’” took issue with its specific provisions, citing “sections 253 and 257,” for instance, as unconstitutional intrusions “the President’s exclusive constitutional authority to recognize foreign governments,” the other statement was riddled with petty grievances, slights, and shout outs to Russia.

Trump was happy with the part of the legislation that dealt with sanctions on North Korea and Iran (included in order to get it passed by the House), but not the sanctions on Russia. Hence the references to “unconstitutional” and “the President’s exclusive constitutional authority to recognize foreign governments” and other longish words and phrases that someone wrote for him. Trump then added the bits about his being the greatest dealmaker who ever lived; how congress shouldn’t be cramping his conman style (or words to that effect) etc.

Translation: Trump has absolutely no intention whatsoever of adhering to the sanctions on Russia as prescribed by the Act, and will certainly be ignoring any kind of provision that would curtail his authority which disappointingly (from his point of view) falls well short of the powers your average dictator possesses.

I’m sure that must thrill everyone who voted for it.

Meanwhile the Advanced Class in Civics continues. It’s an undulating learning curve but at least we’re all well ahead of Trump who has yet to come to grips with the basics. I wonder how long it took those smart-arses at the White House to teach him how to weaponize a signing statement? One day? Two? Three? Well the legislation did sit on his desk for five days so I think we can safely conclude that that’s how long it took.

It’s back to Congress for the next move — though republicans all use the black pieces so it can be hard to tell whose turn it is sometimes. As for Trump, after all that hard work, he’s packed up his crayons and is off to play golf at his Seven Springs property for 18 days so he can recover from the strain of presidenting-while-Trump.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos