Neither President Donald Trump nor Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are fans of the new congressional sanctions on Russia, particularly because they may hinder attempts at restoring the relationship between the two countries, the top U.S. diplomat admitted Tuesday.
“The action by the Congress to put these sanctions in place and the way they did, neither the President nor I were very happy about that,” Tillerson told reporters in the State Department briefing room. “We were clear that we didn’t think it was going to be helpful to our efforts, but that’s the decision they made, they made it in a very overwhelming way. I think the president accepts that.
Despite his displeasure with the sanctions, Tillerson said of the president, “all indications are he will sign that bill.”
Tillerson’s comments sound at odds with those of Vice President Mike Pence, who said the president is “unified” with Congress.
“President Trump will sign the Russia sanctions bill soon,” Pence said at a press conference this week in Georgia with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. “And let me say that in signing the sanction, our President and our Congress are speaking with a unified voice.”
Tillerson added that the sanctions may hinder attempts at restoring the relationship between the two counties. “We were clear, we didn’t think it would be helpful to our efforts … we can’t let it take us off track of trying to restore the relationship …. [which is] under considerable stress.”
The secretary of state also revealed that during their meeting in the Oval Office in May, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “we need some good news” from Moscow. The pair met a day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey over the Russia investigation.
Tillerson said he understood why Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the U.S. to drastically cut its diplomatic presence in Russia, even though the move was in retaliation for a similar U.S. action last year under President Barack Obama. Still, Putin’s decision to do so came right after Congress voted to slap Russia with more economic sanctions.
“I think it’s important to recognize that any leader of any country has their whole population watching them as well, and President Putin has his population of Russia watching him,”…