US President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning signed into law legislation that levies new sanctions against Russia and restricts his own ability to ease sanctions in place against Moscow, a White House official said.
This is after he had privately opposed the measures and his aides had lobbied against them.
Last week, the U.S. Congress had voted by overwhelming margins for sanctions to punish the Russian government over interference in the 2016 presidential election, annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and other perceived violations of international norms.
Trump’s desire for better relations with Moscow has been hamstrung by findings of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered to help the Republican against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. U.S. congressional panels and a special counsel are investigating. Moscow denies any meddling and Trump denies any collusion by his campaign.
Trump, who has made clear he wanted to improve relations with Russia, grudgingly accepted the new congressional sanctions. The bill had enough support in Congress to override a presidential veto.
The new sanctions bill hits Russia’s energy and defense sectors, and also includes fresh sanctions against Iran and North Korea.
Two White House sources said Trump had signed the bill behind closed doors and away from the cameras — in signing it, he avoided the humiliating prospect of Congress overriding his veto.