By Eric Walsh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump chafed on Thursday over the new dive in U.S. relations with Russia, widening a rift with his own Republican Party as he blamed Congress for causing the tensions with a new package of sanctions.
Far removed from his election campaign promises to improve relations with Vladimir Putin and his praise of the Russian president, Trump found himself the target of Kremlin scorn after he reluctantly signed the sanctions against Moscow into law on Wednesday.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday evening the measure showed the Trump administration was utterly powerless. The sanctions amounted to a full-scale trade war and the hope of improved relations with the new administration in Washington was over, Medvedev said in a Facebook post.
Even while campaigning for the White House, Trump’s stated desire for improved ties with Moscow raised eyebrows among his fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats. Prospects for a rapprochement largely evaporated once he took office in January over U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election campaign.
Congress passed the new sanctions to punish Russia for the election interference and the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, and included provisions allowing lawmakers to stop Trump from easing the penalties.
Trump, who has publicly expressed frustration with Congress, lashed out again at lawmakers on Thursday.
“Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low,” he said in a Twitter post.
“You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!” he added, referring to a bitter setback this month when Republicans failed to push healthcare legislation through the Senate.
Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, and Democrats are strongly divided on many issues but the sanctions measure drew wide support from lawmakers in both parties.
Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a leading voice on foreign policy in the party, was among the Republican lawmakers pushing back hard at Trump’s tweet.
“Our relationship w/ Russia is at dangerous low. You can thank Putin for attacking our democracy, invading neighbors & threatening our allies,” McCain said on Twitter.
Trump had little choice but to sign the legislation because Congress clearly had the votes to override his potential veto. He strongly criticized the bill as “significantly flawed” and…