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Call Your MoCs and Demand They Enforce Sanctions Against Russia, Dammit, July 5, 2018 Edition

Call your MoCs to demand enforcement of sanctions against Russia.

 

Sarah Jane here. While I was sick with the flu back in January 2018, I wrote a few posts asking folks to call their MoCs and demand that they pressure President Trump to impose the sanctions on Russia for meddling with the 2016 election, which Congress passed with a veto-proof margin.

 

Trump’s shrugging off of the deadline and refusal to impose the sanctions has gotten some attention, but not enough, because ridiculous scandals continue to happen.

 

It should not get lost, and I am determined that it won’t.

 

Trump should not be allowed to ignore the will of 530 members of Congress. In my opinion it’s one of the worst, scariest signs of sliding into authoritarianism. We need to push back, and keep pushing back. And given that almost everyone in Congress feels the same way, we have leverage here.

 

We did see a small amount of progress on March 15, 2018, when the Trump administration accused Russia of hacking vital American infrastructure and imposed sanctions on 19 individuals, including the 13 that Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted in February 2018. While the move is welcome, it’s not what we’re asking for. The administration still needs to obey Congress and impose the damn sanctions on Russia already.

 

We also saw progress on March 23, when Trump signed an omnibus spending bill that included measures that push back against Russia in various ways. It was also good news when the administration announced it would expel 60 Russian officials from America and close the Seattle consulate over the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain.

 

And as of April 4, we’ve seen reports that the administration might sanction Russian oligarchs. See the stories:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-administration-to-impose-fresh-sanctions-against-russia/2018/04/04/bc09e0b8-3851-11e8-b57c-9445cc4dfa5e_story.html?utm_term=.943e72ddd109

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-sanctions/u-s-plans-to-sanction-russian-oligarchs-this-week-sources-idUSKCN1HB34U

 

But! The sanctions that Congress called for have still not been imposed.

 

And! We saw a serious setback on April 16, 2018, when the Trump administration walked back a new round of sanctions against Russia, throwing the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, under the bus in the process. Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Counsel, evidently claimed she “might have gotten confused”. Read a New York Times story on the walk-back:

 

Haley, for her part, is Not Having It as of April 17, 2018, when she told CNN, “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.” Kudlow later apologized for his remarks. Read a Vox story on Haley’s pushback:

https://www.vox.com/2018/4/17/17249652/nikki-haley-russia-sanctions-larry-kudlow-response

 

It’s also worth noting a chilling comment Trump made on June 15, during a White House lawn broadcast of Fox & Friends (noting that for future historians, who will boggle at it). When asked about North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un, he said:

 

“He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

 

Trump himself later tried to downplay the utterance it by calling it sarcasm. [Attempting to blunt the impact of horrible comments by retroactively claiming they’re jokes is a classic strategy of bullies and abusers.] Conservative commentators have tried to soft-pedal it by claiming that Trump was talking about his own staff, not American citizens at large.

 

Given all the other things Trump has said and done, both as a candidate and as president, we at OTYCD are not taking it as sarcasm, or as a reference to how he wants White House staff to behave. He admires dictators. He doesn’t seem to care what dictators do to their people to force obedience.

 

We at OTYCD will continue to devote at least one post per week to the Russian sanctions issue until the Trump administration does what Congress told it to do.

 

This is the entry for July 5, 2018.

 

Below is more material from other past posts, plus a Celeste Pewter calling script. Please stay on this, and please spread the word. Thanks!

 

 

On Monday, January 29, 2018, the Trump administration was due to enforce sanctions imposed on Russia for meddling in our elections, as required by a 2017 law.

 

The administration brushed off the requirement by claiming the threat of the sanctions was deterrent enough.

 

After I wrote a combo Nunes memo-Russia sanctions enforcement post yesterday, Senator Claire McCaskill got to the heart of the problem in a tweet she sent late on January 29, 2018:

 

Congress voted 517-5 to impose sanctions on Russia. The President decides to ignore that law. Folks that is a constitutional crisis. There should be outrage in every corner of this country.

 

To my horror, the implications of Trump’s act are getting ignored, or crowded out by other horrible things.

 

Please, call your members of Congress and demand that they call Trump out for this. He cannot just brush off a law passed with a veto-proof majority. McCaskill is right–it’s a constitutional crisis. Please call.

 

Here’s your @Celeste_Pewter calling script for that topic:

 

 

Since Celeste prepared that calling script, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictments of 13 Russians for interfering in the 2016 Russian election.

 

Read the Washington Post‘s story about the indictments, which came down on February 16, 2018:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/russian-troll-farm-13-suspects-indicted-for-interference-in-us-election/2018/02/16/2504de5e-1342-11e8-9570-29c9830535e5_story.html?utm_term=.be1dd2d76f9d

 

The indictments also make Trump’s refusal to impose the sanctions that Congress voted overwhelmingly to impose that much more flagrant and disgusting. It also makes it that much more important that we at OTYCD stay on this topic and spotlight it until Trump finally does what he should have done back in late January 2018.

 

Here I will reproduce more useful info from past OTYCD post that quote Celeste Pewter and Alexandra Erin.

 

Celeste Pewter (@Celeste_Pewter) helped me keep sane with a series of tweets on January 31, which I’ll reproduce:

 

Ok. I keep seeing certain threads about Russian sanctions/authoritarianism being RTed into my TL, so I think it’s important to have some facts on what Congress can and cannot do to address the WH’s decision. Start with this:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/01/30/even-if-trump-is-blatantly-ignoring-the-russia-sanctions-law-theres-not-a-lot-congress-can-do-about-it/?utm_term=.3b1222b2389a

 

Then follow it up with this:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/01/30/the-trump-administrations-weird-explanation-for-withholding-russia-sanctions/?utm_term=.1821cef97d99

 

I think it’s easy (and understandable) to say: “Rule of law is deaaaaad!” but the question now becomes: What are YOU going to do about it? Senator tweeted this: [She quotes the tweet I reproduce above]

 

Yes, be outraged. But more importantly, channel your outrage. The WaPo article I listed lists four options for Congress to respond to this; these are the three most likely. Your elected work for you. Demand they make any three (or even all three) happen. [She includes a screenshot of the three things, from the first Washington Post piece above.]

 

Don’t just sit around waiting for government to collapse; if you’re truly as upset as all of your RTs seem to indicate – I’m getting a bit [thinking face with arched eyebrow emoji] with the fatalism – then make sure you call and make your electeds hear your voice. Yes, this includes GOP electeds.

 

If you’ve followed me long enough, you’ll know I used to be a constituent affairs director for an elected. Trust me when I say: staff will let their boss(es) hear it, if their phone lines are ringing off the hook. We want it to stop so we can do other work.

 

We want our bosses to give us solutions to make it stop. So make it happen w/ these Russian sanction calls. Make the constituent team know you don’t accept this, and you will keep calling, until they are so tired of you, they will demand the office do something.

 

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: we are many, and they are few. Do you really want these sanctions dictated by a few wankers in the administration? No. This time, you even have a bipartisan majority of the House and the Senate on your side. You have the power.

 

Here also are Alexandra Erin (@alexandraerin)’s January 31, 2018 tweets on the topic:

 

There are a pair of recent moves, from the State Department and the Treasury Department, which suggest that in year two of Trump’s reign, the regime is being a lot less circumspect about being in Putin’s pocket, with less ego-clashing feud and less smoke-and-mirrors resistance.

 

Now, you might recall that back in 2017, Congress passed laws calling for tough new sanctions to punish Russia for its election interference. There was a lot of speculation about whether Trump would sign this act, but he finally did, grudgingly and complaining the whole time.

 

In the United States system of government, the theory is that Congress passes the law, and the executive branch *executes* them, hence the term. Trump as chief executive is the chief one responsible for carrying out laws passed by Congress.

So guess where this is going.

 

Monday, January 29th, was the deadline for the executive branch to impose the sanctions, as prescribed in the bill that Donald Trump personally signed into canon as the law of the land.

It came and it went.

 

The law called for the Treasury Department to help guide the sanctions by producing an investigative report of oligarchs and businesses linked to Putin.

 

Serious, lifetime-career experts at the Treasury Department prepared that report, which was then thrown out and replaced with a copy of the Russian Forbes 100 list plus a few public Putin associates and a disclaimer that it’s not a list of people who should face sanctions.

 

And Rex Tillerson, secretary of state and obvious Yosemite Sam pseudonym, told Congress that they haven’t imposed actual sanctions because the threat of sanctions is proving an effective deterrent. Slap on the wrist, everybody learned a valuable lesson. No actual penalty.

 

The actual implementation strategy here is to let everyone else know that doing “significant transactions” with certain Russia-linked entities may result in penalties for the other party. But it’s entirely discretionary. No actual rules per se.

Team America: World Secret Police.

 

This gives the Trump regime a valuable tool for looking tough (Trump’s favorite way to look), a free hand for Putin, and a way to arbitrarily impose sanctions on countries or other entities that Trump or Putin want to weaken.

 

With nothing actually in writing about what transactions get penalized, we could easily see a situation where a group that does significant business with the Ukraine and also had an incidental transaction in Russia gets hit with sanctions for violating the unwritten rules.

 

Or anybody backing dissidents and opposition politicians in Russia. The sub-basement floor is the limit with these guys.

 

I don’t think we are quite at “Treasury and State Department overtly help Putin crush his enemies” territory yet. Nope. But one year and change in to Trump’s rule, and we are at “Treasury and State Department overtly shield Putin and his cronies from consequences” territory.

 

And while it’s not a surprising shift, it is a marked shift from where they were last year, and the main thing that has changed is what year it is. Time makes Trump normal. The passage of the year changed his dislike of the sanctions from an outrage to the way things are.

 

And with Trump’s feet-dragging opposition to the sanctions accepted as the new normal, his executive branch failing to execute them becomes a natural progression of time rather than a startling departure from all norms of governance and the rule of law.

 

So you’ve really got to ask yourself, what would the start of a year 3 of Trump look like? How far would he be able to go after his next calendar reset? How far can he push things between now and then?

 

…this prompted Cathy R to tweet,

So now what? No further actions!? What can be done?

 

Alexandra Erin answered:

 

Talk about it. Spread awareness of it. Make sure everybody you know knows that it’s happening. Post it on your Facebook. Put it in an email forward to your uncle. The right does these things, and it shapes the way people think about politics, and vote.

 

Talk is not the only action required, but talk is an action that is required. There is a national discourse. We have to be shaping it.

 

Believe it or not, talking about the regime’s corruption is doing something. Talking about the resurgence of overt Nazism and white nationalism is doing something. Being willing to talk about these things, to label them as they are rather than accepting them as normal, helps.

 

We could be calling Congress to light a fire under them to demand the executive branch actually execute these things, to write newer, more specific, and tougher sanction laws, but to be honest: the public engagement and awareness aren’t there yet to get the critical mass needed.

 

So step one is: talk about it. Talk to people about it. Get people talking about it. The executive branch is flouting the rule of law, Trump is ignoring a law he himself signed into existence.

 

The right has a hundred talking points about why Russian interference doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter or helped Clinton or whatever. But none of that addresses the fact that Trump signed this law. He made it the law of the land. And he’s ignoring it.