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    US Congress Faces 'Sanctions Fatigue' as Russiagate Narrative Implodes – Reports

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    Earlier, after more than two years of claims by Trump's opponents that the president was a 'Russian agent' and that the Kremlin had meddled in the 2016 race, special counsel Robert Mueller submitted his findings to Attorney General William Barr, whose four-page summary of the probe indicated that Mueller had found no evidence of collusion.

    Supporters of new sanctions against Russia for its alleged 'meddling' in the 2016 US presidential election are facing waning enthusiasm in Congress, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, author of the so-called DETER Act, has told Bloomberg.

    "We face a little bit of sanctions fatigue around here these days," Rubio said. "Hopefully we'll get more people on board." 

    The Rubio bill, introduced by Rubio and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, proposes the targeting of Russia's banking, defence and energy sectors, as well as its sovereign debt and individuals in the case of new 'Russian interference' in future US elections. The bill is a follow-up to a similar measure introduced last year,which was never brought up for a vote, according to Reuters.

    According to Bloomberg, lawmakers are divided regarding how to punish Moscow, given potential 'unintended economic consequences', as well as difficulties associated with passing legislation in a divided Congress and a lack of support from the Trump White House.

    "Sanctions can often be a double-edged sword," Republican Senator and Homeland Security Committee chairman Ron Johnson said. "So we really should take a little bit of a step back and assess where we are and what we can really do."

    Van Hollen defended the 'deterrent' sanctions proposal, saying his bill was not about new sanctions immediately, but about "sending a clear signal that if you screw around in our elections again, there's going to be swift and severe punishment."

    Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen told Bloomberg that Congress's faltering interest in new sanctions could pick up again over Russian "activities in Venezuela" (where Russia is providing support for the government). "If we see those kinds of activities continue, there will be a growing appetite for additional sanctions," Shaheen hopes.

    Finally, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy suggested that lawmakers should think "a little more creatively about how to make Russia pay a price," saying lawmakers should spend their time "talking about actual long-term strategies to try to combat Russia's influence" instead of essentially wasting time "slapping sanctions on Russian individuals and banks".

    Rubio and Van Hollen's bill is one of two proposed sanctions bills targeting Russia. The other, introduced by Republican Lindsey Graham, Democrat Bob Menendez and the late Republican John McCain, is known as the DASKA Act, and proposes similarly 'tough' measures including bans on operations with Russian state banks, sanctions on investment in Russian energy companies, and restrictions on Russian individuals accused of cyberattacks.

    The US has already slapped Russia with well over two dozen packages of sanctions measures, with restrictions imposed over the crisis in Ukraine (for which Washington has blamed Moscow), over alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as well as the March 2018 poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK (for which the UK and US blame Russia). 

    Russia has denied US claims of wrongdoing in all three instances, and has been particularly vocal in denying Washington's election meddling claims, pointing to an utter lack of proof. President Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov has described the meddling accusations as "absolutely unsubstantiated," while Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has pointed out that's Russia's repeated requests for evidence regarding the claims were ignored. President Trump, meanwhile, has dismissed the collusion claims as a political "witch hunt" launched by his opponents, and suggested that the Mueller report had completely exonerated him. 

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    Tags:
    Russiagate, meddling, interference, sanctions, US Congress, Marco Rubio, United States, Russia
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