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Russia sanctions bill that defies Trump is set for key vote

trump putin

FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. Photo By Carlos Barria/Reuters

WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday President Donald Trump would sign a sweeping Russia sanctions measure, which the House could take up this week, that requires him to get Congress’ permission before lifting or easing the economic penalties against Moscow.

Lawmakers are scheduled to consider the sanctions package as early as Tuesday, and the bill could be sent to Trump before Congress breaks for the August recess. The legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the newly appointed White House press secretary, said the administration is supportive of being tough on Russia and “particularly putting these sanctions in place.”

“We support where the legislation is now, and will continue to work with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia until the situation in Ukraine is fully resolved,” Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.”

READ NEXT: Some senators urge House to pass Russia sanctions bill ‘as quickly as possible.’

Congressional Republicans and Democrats announced Saturday that they’d settled lingering issues with the bill, which also includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea. The sanctions targeting Russia, however, have drawn the most attention due to Trump’s persistent push for warmer relations with President Vladimir Putin and ongoing investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.

“North Korea, Iran and Russia have in different ways all threatened their neighbors and actively sought to undermine American interests,” according to a joint statement by California Republicans Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, and Ed Royce of California, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman. The bill the House will vote, they said, “will now exclusively focus on these nations and hold them accountable for their dangerous actions.”

The White House had objected to a key section of the bill that would mandate a congressional review if Trump attempts to terminate the sanctions against Moscow. Top administration officials said the provisions infringed on the president’s executive authority and tied his hands as he explores avenues of cooperation between the two former Cold War foes. But Sanders said the White House was able to work with the House and Senate to “make those changes that were necessary.”

Lawmakers included the review because of wariness in both parties over Trump’s affinity for Putin. Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the top ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said Trump has been unwilling to respond seriously to Russia’s belligerence, “leaving Congress with the urgent responsibility to hold Vladimir Putin accountable.”

McCarthy had pushed to add the North Korea sanctions to the package. The House had overwhelmingly passed legislation in May to hit Pyongyang with additional economic penalties, but the Senate had yet to take up the bill. The Senate last month passed sanctions legislation that targeted only Russia and Iran.

Although the legislation has widespread support, the bill stalled after clearing the Senate more than five weeks ago due to constitutional questions and bickering over technical details.

The House and Senate negotiators addressed concerns voiced by American oil and natural gas companies that sanctions specific to Russia’s energy sector could backfire on them to Moscow’s benefit. The bill raises the threshold for when U.S. firms would be prohibited from being part of energy projects that also included Russian businesses.

McCarthy and Royce said other revisions resolved concerns that the sanctions could have unintentionally complicated the ability of America’s European allies to maintain access to energy resources outside of Russia.

The congressional review requirement in the sanctions bill is styled after 2015 legislation pushed by Republicans and approved in the Senate that gave Congress a vote on whether then-President Barack Obama could lift sanctions against Iran. That measure reflected Republican complaints that Obama had overstepped the power of the presidency and needed to be checked by Congress.

According to the bill, Trump is required to send Congress a report explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of sanctions. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it.

The North Korea sanctions bill included in the package bill cleared the House by a 419-1 vote, and House Republicans became frustrated the Senate didn’t move quickly on the measure given the vast bipartisan support it received. The measure bars ships owned by North Korea or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against it from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports. Goods produced by North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States.

The sanctions package imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country’s Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

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Israel installs cameras to holy site amid protests over security measures

Palestinians pray just outside Jerusalem's Old City in protest over Israel's new security measures at the entrance to
         the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City

Palestinians pray just outside Jerusalem’s Old City in protest over Israel’s new security measures at the entrance to the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City July 23, 2017. Photo by Ammar Awad/Reuters

Israel installed security cameras at the entrance of a holy site in Jerusalem on Sunday, a potential signal that Israeli officials are considering alternatives to the metal detectors that sparked days of protests.

The cameras join metal detectors as part of a growing security apparatus that is seen by Palestinians as an attempt by Israel to control their access to the shrine, known as Harim al-Sharif to Muslims and Temple Mount to Jews.

The metal detectors were installed on July 16, two days after three Israeli Arabs stationed in the site killed two Israeli police officers. Following the shooting, Israeli officials closed the site for the first time in decades. When it was reopened, metal detectors had been set up at five of the eight entrance gates used by Muslims.

As of Sunday, the metal detectors remain in place. Israel has yet to comment on the new cameras.

There have been nightly protests since the metal detectors were installed. On Friday, the holiest day of the week for Muslims, thousands of Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israeli troops responded to the stones and firecrackers thrown by Palestinians with live rounds and tear gas. Three Palestinians were killed and dozens were wounded.

Later, three Israeli civilians were stabbed to death in the West Bank by a Palestinian attacker. At least one Palestinian died on Saturday.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announced on Friday, before the cameras were installed, that he would “freeze” all ties with Israel until all security measures were removed. Top Muslim clerics called for a total boycott of the site until it was restored without security measures, saying the presence of metal detectors threatened the sacred site’s delicate stability.

Now, rather than enter Harim al-Sharif, many Palestinians are choosing to pray in the street.

The East Jerusalem site is managed by an Islamic organization based in Jordan, called the Waqf, but Israel largely maintains control of security. The shrine looms large over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sitting at the heart of the city that Israel has occupied for 50 years since it was annexed after the Six-Day War.

Palestinians have a longstanding opposition to increased security at Harim al-Sharif. Last summer, Jordan backed off plans to install security cameras to the site after Palestinian activists objected.

The UN Security Council plans to discuss the unrest on Monday.

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