Key GOP senators warn Trump not to lift Russia sanctions

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol Feb. 5, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

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Two key Republican Senators are warning President Donald Trump not to unilaterally lift sanctions against Russia ahead of a Saturday phone call between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“I would encourage the president to reject this course of action,” Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) said in a statement on Friday. Senator John McCain declared in a separate statement that he hopes “President Trump will put an end to this speculation and reject such a reckless course.”

Both GOP lawmakers stated that Congress should codify the sanctions which were originally put in place through President Obama’s executive orders in the wake of Russian aggression against Ukraine

“I will work with my colleagues to codify sanctions against Russia into law,” McCain warned if Trump took unilateral action to lift the sanctions. Portman added, “I believe the U.S. Senate should take pro-active steps to codify the sanctions against Russia into law to ensure we live up to our commitments to our allies and uphold longstanding American values and ideals.”

Codifying the sanctions into law would limit the President’s discretion although the bipartisan legislation that both Senators are cosponsoring, the Countering Russian Hostilities Act of 2017, still includes Presidential waivers.

“If we can have a great relationship with Russia and with China and with all countries, I am all for that,” Trump said in an afternoon press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May where he stated it was “very early to be talking about” lifting sanctions.

Earlier in the morning, Kellyanne Conway, a key counselor to the President, did not dispute that the administration was considering removing the sanctions against Russia. 

“All of that is under consideration,” she told Fox News Friday morning. “If another nation that has considerable resources wishes to join together with the United States of America to try to defeat and eradicate radical Islamic terrorism we are listening.”