On August 2, 2017, President Trump signed a bipartisan bill entitled, “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” that placed sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. The legislation was largely in response to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential elections. The bill calls for sanctions against people and entities that: undermine U.S. cybersecurity on behalf of the Russian government; invest in Russia’s energy export pipelines; conduct “significant” transactions with Russian defense and intelligence agencies; commit or assist in serious human rights abuses; commit acts of “significant” corruption; provide support to the Syrian government to acquire arms; and invest or facilitate the investment of $10 million or more in the Russian government’s privatization of any state-owned asset in a one year period that could unfairly benefit government officials or their associates. The bill lists a dozen types of sanctions that can be imposed against Russia by the president, including freezing assets, revoking U.S. visas, and banning exports form the U.S. to those sanctioned.
The Sanctions Act instructed the Trump Administration to issue guidance on which Russian entities in the military and intelligence sectors should be sanctioned. This was supposed to be completed by October 1, 2017, however the administration missed this deadline, and did not issue it until October 26, 2017. The next deadline is January 29, 2018, when the administration must provide a list of businesses and enterprises from different countries that have continued to do business with those Russian entities and which will face sanctions as a result. When the October deadline was missed, the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), pressed the White House. However, Congress is not able to directly enforce the law, and there appears to be little they can do to force President Trump to act.
On December 20, 2017, the Trump Administration imposed sanctions on five Russian individuals for alleged human rights abuses and involvement in criminal conspiracies. These sanctions were designated by the U.S. Treasury Department under the authority of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, a law that freezes any assets held in the U.S. of Russian officials responsible for human rights abuses, and also bars them from receiving visas.