U.S. Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham will introduce a bill Tuesday that would increase sanctions against Russia for its alleged interference in November’s presidential election.

The two senators, both critics of President-elect Donald Trump, will unveil the measure at a news conference Tuesday afternoon along with Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, the bill’s main sponsor, and seven other co-sponsors, including former Republican presidential hopeful and Senator Marco Rubio.

The legislation — called the “Countering Russian Hostilities Act of 2017″ — is designed to show that key Republicans are intent on punishing Russia despite Trump’s desire to strengthen ties with Russia.

The measure will be introduced four days after the U.S. intelligence community released a declassified version of a report accusing Russia of meddling in the election.

Frozen assets, bans

The bill would impose visa bans and freeze assets of those who undermine the cybersecurity of democratic institutions, possibly making it more difficult for banks to conduct business with Russian military and intelligence agencies.

It also would codify sanctions imposed on Russia by President Barack Obama’s administration in response to Russia’s interference in the election and its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

In addition, the bill would authorize $100 million for the State Department and other U.S. agencies to counter Russian propaganda.

If the bill becomes law, the Trump administration would not be required to implement the sanctions. Senator Cardin said a waiver probably would be included in the bill that allows the president to waive the sanctions if it is in the best interests of the U.S.

Clapper questioning

Also on Capitol Hill Tuesday, the nation’s top intelligence official will be questioned by members of the Senate intelligence committee about the report that accused Russia of computer hacking during the presidential campaign.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, will face questions that may expose the underlying debate over the future of U.S.-Russian relations.

In the report released Friday, the U.S. intelligence community said it had “high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered a campaign to undermine the democratic presidential electoral process in the U.S.

U.S. officials said Russian efforts were intended to undercut the election chances of Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Trump, the Republican candidate.

Russia has rejected U.S. claims that it interfered in the presidential election, and a spokesman said the legislation threatening U.S. sanctions are an attempt to further harm relations between the two countries.

Russia refutes

The allegations against Russia are “substantiated with nothing” and “amateurish,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.

Russia also criticized the new U.S. sanctions against Russian officials, saying they will further degrade relations between the two countries.

On Monday, the U.S. announced the sanctions against Russia’s top investigator and four other officials for what the State Department called “notorious human rights violations.”

Kremlin spokesman Peskov told reporters Tuesday that Russia regrets the decline in relations during President Barack Obama’s second term and hopes for positive developments in the future.

The five Russians, along with two other men with alleged ties to Hezbollah, were sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act.

U.S. officials did not say exactly for which transgressions the seven are being sanctioned. But State Department spokesman John Kirby said, “Each of the most recently added names was considered after extensive research.”

Human rights

Kirby said the five Russians played “roles in the repressive machinery of Russia’s law enforcement systems, as well as individuals involved in notorious human rights violations.”

They include Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee, Russia’s main investigative agency, which has led criminal probes of leading Kremlin opponents.

Two others on the list are Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, whom Britain has named as the two top suspects in the poisoning death of Russian spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

The 44 people now on the list are barred from entering the United States and their U.S. assets are frozen. U.S. citizens are forbidden from carrying out any financial transactions with them.

The Magnitsky Act was named for Russian anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in 2009 after spending a year in prison and in poor health.

Russian investigators ruled there was nothing criminal in Magnitsky’s death.

The State Department alleges there is plenty of evidence, though, to show Magnitsky was beaten in his jail cell, and his illnesses went untreated.

 

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