Asked about an amendment to President Obama’s sanctions against Russia signed Thursday by the Treasury Department, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the document merely authorized cursory changes to existing sanctions against a Russian intelligence agency.
President Donald Trump later echoed that sanctions hadn’t been eased.
Spicer was asked at a press briefing about a document signed by the acting director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control called “Authorizing Certain Transactions with the Federal Security Service.”
Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, was accused of hacking into the email systems of Democratic Party officials and organizations. As a result, the Obama administration placed additional sanctions against Russia in late December.
“We are not easing sanctions. The Treasury Department — from what I understand, it is a fairly common practice for the Treasury Department, after sanctions are put in place, to go back and to look at whether or not there needs to be specific carve-outs for different either industries or products and services that need to be going back and forth,” Spicer said.
One reporter said it “suggests that you are in fact easing sanctions and authorizing certain transactions with the Federal Security Service,” and asked whether that language suggested a shift in policy.
“No, it doesn’t” suggest any shift, Spicer said. “It is, from my understanding, a regular course of action that Treasury does quite often when there are sanctions imposed. But I would refer you back to the Treasury Department.
Asked about Russia by a scrum of reporters at his meeting with executives from Harley-Davidson and others on Thursday, Trump responded dismissively.
“I haven’t eased anything,” he said as reporters left the room. “I haven’t eased anything.”