- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2017

Russia moved Friday to expel American diplomats and kick U.S. personnel out of several locations in Moscow, retaliating after Congress a day earlier wrote into law stiff economic sanctions against top Russian officials and important industries.

Russian officials, including President Putin, had foreshadowed the move on Thursday, just as the Senate was clearing the bill in a final overwhelming vote.

“Recent events indicate that Russophobia and the policy aimed at open confrontation with our country have reigned supreme in some circles in the U.S.,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday, according to TASS.

The foreign ministry called the sanctions “illegal” and an attempt to “blackmail” Moscow.

The new sanctions codify and expand penalties that President Obama imposed late in his term, acting to punish Russia for its involvement in Ukraine and for meddling in the U.S. election last year. The sanctions were a rare moment of overwhelming bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, passing with barely any dissent in both chambers.

Democrats, who have been obstructing most GOP goals in Congress, signed on board this effort in part because it irritates President Trump, who has sought a free hand in negotiating with Russia, had suggested he might lift the Obama sanctions, and has refused to commit to signing the new bill.

A key part of the new law gives Congress powers to review any decision by Mr. Trump to try to lift the sanctions.

Even if the president were to veto the legislation, Congress appears to have to votes to override him.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill took the move by Moscow as a badge of honor.

“It must be a bitter pill for Putin to swallow that as a result of his brazen interference in favor of President Trump, the Congress has imposed additional sanctions on Russia and placed significant constraints on the president’s authority to waive existing sanctions,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee.

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