Republican senators warned President Donald Trump on Friday against lifting sanctions on Russia over its intervention in Ukraine, after a top White House adviser indicated it would be up for discussion.
Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said he was "deeply concerned" that sanctions on Russia could be lifted, urging Trump to "reject this course of action."
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"To lift the sanctions on Russia for any reason other than a change in the behavior that led to those sanctions in the first place would send a dangerous message to a world already questioning the value of American leadership and the credibility of our commitments after eight years of Obama administration policies," Portman, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, said in a statement Friday.
"We must stand by our allies in the region, including Ukraine," Portman added. "I believe the U.S. Senate should take pro-active steps to codify the sanctions against Russia into law to ensure we live up to our commitments to our allies and uphold longstanding American values and ideals."
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, promised to fight for sanctions should Trump embark on such a "reckless course."
"For the sake of America's national security and that of our allies, I hope President Trump will put an end to this speculation and reject such a reckless course," McCain said. "If he does not, I will work with my colleagues to codify sanctions against Russia into law."
Representatives for the Kremlin and the White House confirmed Friday that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will speak over the phone on Saturday. White House aide Kellyanne Conway said during a television appearance that lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia would be "under consideration" during the phone call between the two leaders.
Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, and Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine for nearly three years. The Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities for their involvement in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Earlier this month, McCain and Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers introducing new sanctions legislation that would punish Russia for its hacking of the U.S. presidential election and other aggressive moves.