The Trump administration has declined to impose sanctions against companies and foreign countries doing business with blacklisted Russian defense and intelligence entities.
The administration was required by law to name the companies and individuals Monday, and possibly sanction them under a 2016 law meant to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 US election, as well as its human rights violations, annexation of Crimea and ongoing military operations in eastern Ukraine.
Late Monday, the Treasury Department released an unclassified list of 114 senior foreign political figures with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and 95 oligarchs, who had a net worth of $1 billion or more.
The agency noted that it also provided an additional classified report to Congress that may have included other individuals not listed in the public portion of the report.
A second classified report outlined the impact of imposing sanctions on Russia’s sovereign debt. The government analyzed entities that were at least 25% owned by the Russian government and had roughly $2 billion or more in revenue in 2016. It did not name any of those entities publicly.
The Treasury Department said “this report is not a sanctions list” and that it worked closely with the State Department and the intelligence community in its drafting.
A State Department official said that the administration had decided to put foreign governments and private sector entities “on notice … that significant transactions with listed Russian entities will result in sanctions.”
“Sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent,” the official said.
The announcement came on a day when the ongoing FBI investigation into President Donald Trump’s potential campaign ties to Moscow during the 2016 election once again dominated the news, and once again raised questions about policy decisions his administration is making on Russia.
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, long the target of Trump’s ire toward the FBI over its investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia, stepped down in a surprise move Monday. Trump’s allies have recently intensified their campaign against the investigation, alleging FBI abuses of a surveillance law.
Critics were outraged.
“I’m fed up waiting for this administration to protect our country and our elections,” Rep. Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “They’ve now shown us they won’t act, so it’s time for Congress to do more.”
“The Trump administration had a decision to make whether they would follow the law and crack down on those responsible for attacking American democracy in 2016,” Engel’s statement said. “They chose instead to let Russia off the hook yet again. The State Department claims that the mere threat of sanctions will deter Russia’s aggressive behavior. How do you deter an attack that happened two years ago, and another that’s already underway? It just doesn’t make sense.”
CNN has learned that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed off Monday morning on the measures, which had been due Monday under a law called the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. State Department officials briefed senators earlier today.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the department had told Congress the legislation was being implemented in such a way as to deter Russian defense sales. “Since the enactment of the CAATSA legislation, we estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions,” she said in a statement.