… although the President himself remains mute.
The Trump administration announced today it is enacting new sanctions on Russia, including individuals indicted last month by special counsel Robert Mueller, in a sweeping new effort to punish Moscow for its attempts to interfere in the 2016 US election.
The measures come a month-and-a-half after the administration missed a congressionally mandated deadline to impose the new sanctions, which led to questions over President Donald Trump’s willingness to punish Moscow for its cyber intrusion. The new measures, however delayed, amount to the most stringent punishment yet by Trump for Russia’s election interference.
In announcing the measures, the administration also disclosed a Russian attempt to penetrate the US energy grid, and said the new sanctions would punish actors for their participation in other major cyberattacks.
The new punishments include sanctions on the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm that produced divisive political posts on American social media platforms during the 2016 presidential election. Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, a financial backer to the Internet Research Agency with deep ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is also included.
Known as “Putin’s chef,” Prigozhin was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year for his involvement with the Russian troll farm. Sanctions were also applied on 13 other individuals who were indicted by Mueller for their participation in the election meddling efforts.
“The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in US elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.
In total, the administration applied new sanctions on five entities and 19 individuals on Thursday, including Russians who posed as Americans and posted content online as part of the IRA’s attempts to sow discord ahead of the presidential contest. They came as the US joined European allies in blaming Russia for a nerve agent attack in Britain, deeming the action a “clear violation” of international law.
“The recent use of a military-grade nerve agent in an attempt to murder two UK citizens further demonstrate the reckless and conduct of its government,” a senior US national security official said on Thursday.
That’s all well and good (albeit waaay late), but it’s time for the president to address the Russian attack in his own words on and off camera. If Trump doesn’t take this opportunity to show a bare minimum of presidential leadership, then he will be proving his most virulent opponents correct when they say the president has something to hide about his relationship to Russia.
Honestly, Pompeo, Tillerson, whatever. Putin is a mafia boss and only cares about what another boss has to say. Anything Trump’s admin says about Putin is nearly irrelevant as long as Trump himself refuses to stand up to Putin.
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) March 13, 2018
In the back of my mind, I have this tweet kicking around:
Are the sanctions on Russia going to be a way to mute criticism when Mueller is fired?
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
Caesar: What man is that?
Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March…
Caesar: What say’st thou to me now? Speak once again.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
Caesar: He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.”
UPDATE — Well, this is a start:
President Donald Trump said Thursday it “certainly looks like” the Kremlin was behind the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England last week, adding that the U.S. takes the matter “very seriously.”
“It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it, something that should never ever happen and we’re taking it very seriously as I think are many others,” Trump said of the attack during a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland in the Oval Office.
Trump added that he was in “deep discussions” with British Prime Minister Theresa May over how to respond to the attack on Sergei Skripal, an ex-spy, and his daughter in Salisbury last week.