The White House claims it's allowed to ignore a directive from Congress on Russia and Crimea.
In an embarrassing show of support for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, Trump has declared that he is free to ignore a directive from Congress to condemn Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea.
On Monday, Trump signed into law the defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2019 during a ceremony at Fort Drum in upstate New York.
The bill contains an explicit demand that the U.S. must not recognize the "sovereignty" of Russia over Crimea.
Yet just hours after signing the legislation, the White House issued a signing statement making clear that it will say whatever it wants about Crimea and Russia, regardless of what the bill says.
“My Administration will treat these provisions consistent with the President’s exclusive constitutional authorities as Commander in Chief and as the sole representative of the Nation in foreign affairs, including the authorities to determine the terms upon which recognition is given to foreign sovereigns, to receive foreign representatives, and to conduct the Nation’s diplomacy,” Trump declared in the statement.
Signing statements have traditionally served merely as commentary by presidents on legislation they sign.
President George W. Bush, however, caused controversy by using signing statements to declare that parts of the laws he signed infringed on his authority, and that he did not intend to follow them.
As for Crimea, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has tried to reassure Congress that despite what Trump says, the U.S. still considers Crimea to be part of the Ukraine, and that this position won't change in the near future.
"In concert with allies, partners, and the international community, the United States rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and pledges to maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored," Pompeo stressed last month.
Pompeo was forced to speak out after Trump's chummy summit with Putin in Helsinki, Finland sparked international outrage.
At the summit, Trump sided with Putin over the U.S. intelligence community by suggesting he didn't think Russia interfered with the 2016 election.
Pompeo's assurances on Crimea aren't very reassuring given Trump's erratic behavior, his stubbornness, and his eagerness to please Putin.
On the eve of the G-7 summit in June, Trump actually suggested that Russia be invited back into the trade conference, which includes America's closest allies as well as some of the most advanced economies in the world.
Russia was kicked out of the G-8, as the group was formerly known, after Russia illegally annexed the peninsula of Crimea in 2014.
At the time, Obama’s former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, stressed that isolating Russia was a crucial response to this act of aggression. “Mr. Putin’s Russia has no real allies. We must keep it that way,” McFaul wrote.
Trump has different plans.
Recently, Trump suggested Russia had the right to seize Crimea simply because so many people in the region speak Russian.
That's absurd, and is the same excuse Nazi Germany gave for annexing the German-speaking Austria in 1938.
No matter what the costs, Trump seems determined to validate Putin's corrupt and criminal behavior.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.