Trump Slams Congress over New Russia Sanctions Bill

President Donald Trump is firing pointed criticism at the GOP Congress, ripping lawmakers for sending him a Russia sanctions bill he opposes while failing to negotiate an ObamaCare repeal bill. While tensions between the president and GOP lawmakers have been simmering for months, the latest exchanges suggest a turn in the relationship, The Hill reports.

Trump lamented Thursday that the U.S.-Russia relationship is “at an all-time and very dangerous low”. “You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us healthcare!” he tweeted.

It was the second day in a row that Trump ripped the Congress on both issues, and GOP lawmakers were happy to return fire.

“I try to not to respond to tweets … but I will respond to this one and state, look, the relationship we have with Russia is solely because of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” said Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Corker added that there is “no reason” to tie healthcare to Russia sanctions.

Senator Ron Johnson said the poor U.S.-Russian relationship is “completely, completely Putin’s fault”, while Representative Adam Kinzinger tweeted that Trump should direct his outrage at Putin, “the murderous dictator who attacked our democracy”.

Tensions between Trump and congressional Republicans are understandable. The president campaigned as an outsider running to challenge the Washington establishment, a move that frequently pitted him against the lawmakers he now needs to score legislative victories.

But the latest broadsides suggest the two sides are moving farther apart nearly seven months into the Trump presidency.

Trump’s attacks on Republicans over the two policy issues come amid frustrations in the GOP Senate at the president’s public insults of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a long-serving GOP senator who quit that job to join the administration.

The pressure on Sessions has been widely interpreted as a sign that Trump would like to get rid of Robert Mueller, the Justice Department’s special counsel investigating Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election and possible ties to Trump’s campaign. Sessions recused himself from oversight of the probe, to Trump’s irritation.

News broke on Thursday that Mueller had impaneled a grand jury, a development sure to exacerbate tensions. A number of Republicans bristled over Trump’s accusations on Russia, though the House GOP leaders who negotiated the sanctions package were silent.

Aides to Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce didn’t return requests for comment. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also declined to weigh in.

Still, Republicans are showing they don’t feel strictly bound to a president with a sliding approval rating, 33 percent in one poll this week, and a campaign team under federal investigation.

Senator Tim Scott, whose state Trump won by roughly 14 points, told reporters this week that “we work for the American people, we don’t work for the president”. GOP senators introduced not just one, but two bills on Thursday to protect Mueller from being fired without due cause.

Both of the measures, unveiled separately by GOP Senators Lindsey Graham and Thom Tillis with Democratic Senators Cory Booker and Chris Coons, would block Trump or the Justice Department from unilaterally firing the special counsel.

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