It has now been over a month and a half since the deadline to impose new sanctions on Russia, per the bill Congress forced Trump to sign.
On Monday, Donald Trump announced North Korea will officially be re-added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism, after having been removed nine years ago.
This decision will impose further sanctions on the already heavily sanctioned Pyongyang regime.
There is no question that North Korea's regime — led by Kim Jong Un, whom Trump has repeatedly provoked by, among other things, calling him “Rocket Man” — is a brutal regime. North Korea has horrifically maimed prisoners, and there is evidence the country has tried to sell missile technology to radical groups and other dictatorships.
But Trump’s stance against North Korea seems laughably hollow and inconsistent, considering his failure to implement another set of sanctions explicitly mandated by Congress — on Russia.
The Russian sanctions bill passed almost unanimously this summer amid fears that Trump would give Russian President Vladimir Putin special favors, even as the investigation into their possible collusion in the 2016 election continues apace.
Of particular fear in both parties was the possibility, floated by Trump, that two U.S.-based diplomatic compounds used mainly for Putin-approved espionage against our country might be returned to Russia. The Kremlin had demanded these compounds — which were seized by the U.S. last year in retaliation for cyberattacks — be returned with no strings attached.
At the time, Trump grudgingly signed the sanctions bill because there were easily enough votes in the House and Senate — 419-3 and 98-2, respectively — to overcome a veto.
But the bill mandated that sanctions were to take effect on Oct. 1. More than one and a half months later, Trump has done absolutely nothing to implement any of them.
Under Trump, U.S. diplomats have made bizarre decisions that appear to be overtly sympathetic to Russian autocracy. For instance, the State Department temporarily revoked the visa of Bill Browder, the U.S.-born British activist who has urged countries around the world to pass “Magnitsky laws” freezing the assets of Russian officials who murdered a dissident lawyer.
As long as Trump willingly puts himself in Putin’s pocket, in defiance of his own party in Congress, he cannot claim to have real moral authority on autocratic regimes like North Korea. Trump should not pick and choose which hostile foreign powers he likes, and take a stand for democracy.