President Donald Trump might veto a House-passed measure that would slap new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea so he can “negotiate” tougher penalties against Moscow, says incoming White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.
In an unscheduled and combative phone call to CNN’s “New Day” morning show, which Scaramucci said came after a 15-minute talk with Trump, the former Wall Street financier made clear the president has not ruled out rejecting a bill that got 419 Republican and Democratic votes, with only 19 members in the 435-seat body voting against it.
“He may decide to veto the sanctions and be tougher on the Russians than the Congress,” Scaramucci said. “He may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians.”
Two White House officials had not responded to an email seeking clarity on with whom Trump would be negotiating. The executive branch has the power to craft and implement sanctions on its own.
Trump is considering a move that would likely anger not just Democrats but members of his own party, in large part, because “he is a counterintuitive, counter-punching personality,” his friend and incoming coms chief said. But amid growing signs some GOP senators are losing patience with Trump, the political calculation in issuing the veto threat is unclear.
What’s more, some political pundits have said Trump would be pressured into signing the measure because vetoing it would be widely viewed as bowing to Russia amid an ever-escalating scandal involving the Kremlin and some of his closest advisers — including his eldest son and son-in-law.
But, as always, Trump is being defiant — and turning a foreign policy matter into something of a reality television show plotline.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said in a brief interview Thursday he has spoken to Trump multiple times recently, and the president has given him no indication he intends to veto the sanctions bill.
Corker and others on Wednesday said the Senate may strip out the North Korea sanctions passed by the House because they haven’t had time to review them. But the panel’s ranking member, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., wants them to remain in the bill when the chamber takes it up.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders signaled on Wednesday that the White House, should the bill get to Trump’s desk, would prefer the penalties on Pyongyang to be included.
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, interviewed after Scaramucci, expressed shock that the president would consider vetoing the bill.
“The idea that the president wouldn’t embrace sanctions is pretty striking,” Coons said.
Then he reinforced the point on Twitter, saying that Trump would be making a “grave mistake” if he vetoed the sanctions, and that him negotiating tougher sanctions “isn’t credible.”:
POTUS would be making a grave mistake if he vetoes sanctions on Russia that have passed Congress with an overwhelming, vet-proof majority https://t.co/Z0Bub1wmmK
The idea that President Trump will negotiate tougher sanctions isn’t credible. https://t.co/ji1vQhyqgA
— Rachel Oswald contributed to this report.