President Donald Trump has recently been under fire for his friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And now a top Republican Congress member is slamming him for ignoring an important deadline on whether to sanction Russia over the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy in Britain earlier this year.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce (R-CA) penned a letter to Trump on Thursday stressing the urgency of the sanctions deadline — which Trump has missed by more than a month.
“In recent years, Vladimir Putin has steadily escalated his campaign to consolidate power and undermine the United States,” Royce wrote in the letter, which was obtained by NBC News. “Your compliance with the Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 is critical to showing Putin that we are serious about challenging his deadly acts, as well as his ongoing attacks on our democracy.”
The attempted assassination of Skripal sparked an international response. British authorities blamed Russia for the poisoning and expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation, the UK’s largest removal of foreign officials in more than 30 years. And in a joint statement on March 15, the leaders of the US, UK, France, and Germany said it was “highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack.”
Skripal was a member of a Russian intelligence service known as the GRU who was convicted in 2006 of handing over the names of 300 Russian agents to the British. Skripal admitted to helping UK spies for at least a decade.
A similar poisoning attack occurred earlier this month when a British couple was hospitalized after being exposed to Novichok. British authorities again blamed Russia for the incident, which occurred just 8 miles away from the Skripals’ house and left one woman dead.
And just last week, British authorities reportedly identified multiple Russian suspects linked to the Skripal attack.
Royce first wrote to Trump on March 15, requesting a decision on whether Russia violated international law by using chemical weapons abroad. According to the law, Trump was required to make a decision within 60 days, but the president has instead left Congress waiting for more than 90 days, according to the letter.
Royce said he would give Trump a new deadline to decide if Russia should be sanctioned within the next two weeks. Trump, though, has yet to respond.