McCain to Trump: I will work to 'codify sanctions against Russia into law' if you try to lift them

Arizona Senator John McCain released a statement on Friday about President Donald Trump’s planned phone call with Vladimir Putin, advising Trump to “put an end to speculation” that sanctions on Russia will be lifted.

Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Friday that removing US sanctions on Russia “is under consideration” by the administration, and an executive order that would ease or lift the sanctions has reportedly been drafted for the president.

McCain said that lifting the sanctions would be “reckless,” and promised to work “with my colleagues to codify” the sanctions into law if Trump moved to ease or lift them.

President Barack Obama sanctioned Russia in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine. He issued new sanctions against Russia late last month over its hacking related to the 2016 election, calling Moscow’s “malicious cyber-enabled activities” a “national emergency” aimed at undermining democratic processes.

The 80-year-old Republican senator, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, outlined the “death, destruction, and broken promises” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had left “in his wake” over the past three years.

“Russia’s war on Ukraine has killed over 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians,” McCain wrote, and has “conducted a massive military buildup along NATO’s eastern flank.”

The Kremlin has also “intensified its propaganda efforts to undermine the governments of our allies…and deliberately interfered in our recent election with cyberattacks and a disinformation campaign designed to weaken America,” McCain wrote, referring to the hacks on the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta, which the intelligence community has since traced back to Russia.

Russia has denied any involvement in the hacking campaign.

“Each of our last three presidents had high hopes for building a partnership with the Russian government,” the senator wrote. “Each attempt failed…because Putin wanted to be our enemy.”

Trump suggested in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal that sanctions could be lifted if Moscow proved a useful ally in fighting terrorism.

“If you get along and if Russia is really helping us,” Trump said, “why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?”

The notoriously hawkish senator rebutted that idea, too: Putin “will never be our partner, including in fighting ISIL,” McCain wrote, using an alternative name for the Islamic State. “He believes that strengthening Russia means weakening America.”

“President Trump should remember this when he speaks to Vladimir Putin,” McCain concluded. “He should remember that the man on the other end of the line is a murderer and a thug who seeks to undermine American national security interests at every turn.”

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