In a phone interview with CNN’s New Day, White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said Thursday that President Trump may veto a new sanctions bill targeting Russia. The veto threat comes after Senate leaders agreed to a deal Wednesday that would push the bill through the upper chamber and onto the president’s desk. Earlier in the week, the House of Representatives passed the bill with a whopping 419-3 majority.
And yet, despite unprecedented bipartisan Congressional support for tougher punitive measures against Russia, the White House is playing hardball, leaving open the possibility of a wholesale veto.
"He may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are, or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians," Scaramucci told CNN.
The president’s approach to sanctions is part and parcel of his “counterintuitive, counterpunching personality,” he added.
As The Daily Wire reported, Trump’s reasons for vetoing the bill may extend far beyond his apparent soft spot for Russia.
In the past, the president has argued that he needs flexibility to negotiate with foreign leaders. The bill would effectively limit the president’s ability to terminate sanctions, leaving Trump with less options when he sits down to strike a possible deal with Putin.
Moreover, the Russians will know up-front that sanctions-relief is not a concession that Trump could provide. In addition, foreign policy falls within the realm of unilateral presidential power. Trump may see Congress’ bill as a vehicle to undermine his authority as Commander-in-Chief.
But given the overwhelming Congressional support for the bill, Trump may face major pushback from ranking members in both the House and the Senate if he takes out his veto pen.
"I had a conversation with the president just in the last few days, I've talked to [Secretary of State] Tillerson Tuesday night. I don't think that's real," said Chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee Bob Corker. "I just can't imagine — you look at the vote count."
Dismissing Scaramucci’s grandstanding on CNN, Corker insisted that the president would respect the collective will of lawmakers.