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Trump Signals He Reserves Right to Defy Anti-Russia Provisions in New $731bn Defense Bill

Not inconsequential but it actually means less than you might think

Defense News:

U.S. President Donald Trump said in a statement he reserves the right to ignore the defense authorization law’s ban on U.S. recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea, among 50 other provisions he says tread on his authority as president.

Trump issued a 15-page signing statement Monday to accompany the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that voiced his constitutional concerns with an array of language, including limits on U.S. support to the Saudi campaign in Yemen, limits on transfers of Guantanamo Bay detainees, limits on withdrawing U.S. forces from South Korea and enhanced reporting of civilian casualties.

Trump was also concerned with provisions limiting his ability to retire Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft and to retire intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Trump objected to four of eight provisions focused on Russia. For example, the law would limit the use of federal funds to recognize Russian control over Crimea, but Trump asserted his authority as commander in chief, saying the law would unduly “dictate the position of the United States in external military and foreign affairs.”

Trump invoked executive privilege against a requirement he report to Congress on whether he has raised the topic of the New START Treaty with Moscow. (Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he told Trump that Russia is prepared to extend the treaty, which calls for deployable nuclear warheads and bombs to be capped at 1,550, beyond its 2021 expiration date.)

Trump voiced concerns Congress was handcuffing his military and diplomatic powers over a ban on military-to-military cooperation between the U.S. and Russia, limits on his implementation of the Open Skies Treaty — which allows reciprocal reconnaissance flights — and a mandate he report whether Russia is breaching the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

In a ceremony at Fort Drum, New York, on Monday, Trump signed the sweeping $716 billion authorization measure, calling it “the most significant investment in our military and our war fighters in modern history.” But hours later, the White House released the signing statement criticizing portions of it.

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This is interesting but it isn't as significant as it may seem. What Trump is really doing here is protecting his turf. He is signaling the doesn't intend to let Congress dictate foreign policy to him which is the domain of the executive and the President. It doesn't actually mean he plans to do any of the things he reserves the right to. He has also included numerous singing statements on China, Yemen and Guantanamo. Indeed signing statements become routine under Bush Jr. and Barrack Obama.

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