President Donald Trump has signed an executive order imposing sanctions on Russia for its use of chemical weapons in the 2018 attack on the Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, according to two U.S. officials.
The Trump administration imposed an initial round of sanctions last year, as required by a 1991 law. The same law requires the president to impose a second round of sanctions if he cannot determine that the state in question has stopped using chemical weapons — and U.S. intelligence agencies were unable to make that determination with regard to Russia, which continues to deny responsibility for the attack on the Skripals.
But the president, who has been loath to antagonize Russian president Vladimir Putin, dragged his feet on imposing the second round of sanctions. En route to a rally in Cincinnati on Thursday, he continued to minimize the threat of Russian interference in U.S. elections. Asked by a reporter whether Russia is continuing to meddle in American elections, he responded, “You don’t really believe this. Do you believe this?”
The White House confirmed Kremlin reports that Trump and Putin spoke by phone on Wednesday. It is unclear whether they discussed the forthcoming sanctions. A White House spokesman said they discussed the wildfires currently blazing in Siberia and “trade between the two countries.”
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