Democrats blast Trump as soft on Putin with no Russia sanctions
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is the Senate Minority Leader.

U.S. Democratic lawmakers criticized President Donald Trump on Tuesday for not immediately imposing sanctions on Russia, accusing him of being soft on his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

The Trump administration said on Monday it would not impose sanctions for now under a law Congress overwhelmingly passed last year to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Russia denies interfering in the campaign.

As required by the law, the administration did publish a list of Russian oligarchs close to the Kremlin who could be sanctioned. Moscow dismissed it as little more than a "telephone directory" of the rich.. A U.S. Treasury Department spokesman said on Tuesday the list was drawn from public sources, including Forbes magazine.

Putin said the release of the oligarchs list was "an unfriendly act" that would harm Russian-American relations but that Moscow did not currently plan to retaliate.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday that "there will be sanctions that come out of this (oligarch) report."

But two senior Democratic senators said the sanctions should have come immediately.

"Throughout his term in office, President Trump has failed time and time again to stand up to Vladimir Putin, despite the assault that he carried out on our democracy in the 2016 election," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said.

"Now he has decided not to implement those sanctions," Schumer told reporters. "These are mandatory sanctions. They passed 97-2 in the Senate. He's ignoring them."

Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said there was "real concern" about possible Russian meddling in the 2018 U.S. elections, adding: "The president of the United States is not taking action to defend this nation."

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in an interview with the BBC that aired on Tuesday that he expected Russia would target U.S. congressional elections in November.

Under the sanctions law, the administration faced a Monday deadline to impose sanctions on anyone who was determined to have conducted significant business with Russian defense and intelligence sectors. Those sectors have already been sanctioned for their alleged role in the U.S. presidential election.

Trump, who wanted warmer ties with Moscow, had opposed the legislation as it worked its way through Congress and signed it reluctantly in August.

State Department officials said they had used the law to engage in a quiet, global effort to deter other countries from buying arms from Russian defense and intelligence entities.

"I assure you that the Russians know when a deal that they thought was moving forward is all of a sudden falling apart and not moving forward," a senior State Department official said.

In a statement on Monday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, "Since the enactment of the ... legislation, we estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions."


Daniel Fried, formerly the State Department's top sanctions policy official, said: "I think the administration missed an opportunity to extend the use of sanctions" to deter Russia.

Fried, now at the Atlantic Council think tank, expressed puzzlement at the list of Russian oligarchs, which he said "seemed to be close to a cut-and-paste job."

He said he understood that experts within the U.S. government had done their own extensive research on the oligarchs closest to Putin. That information, he acknowledged, could be in a classified version of the list.

Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was heartened by a classified briefing that the State Department gave on Monday to the committee's staff.

"I am encouraged by the diplomatic steps Secretary (of State Rex) Tillerson has taken in recent months to compel other governments to comply with CAATSA," Corker said, using an acronym for the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. "On the whole, it is clear the administration is working in good faith."

(Additional reporting by Pete Schroeder, Patricia Zengerle, Joel Schectman, Jonathan Landay, Mark Hosenball and Mohammad Zargham.; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Peter Cooney)