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White House faces scrutiny for Russia sanctions delay

Washington, Oct 26 (IANS) Top Senate Republicans are pledging to find out if the White House is intentionally delaying new sanctions on Moscow as a congressionally-imposed deadline to identify top Russian officials involved in political cyber-meddling has expired.

“We’re going to check into it,” Republican Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN on Wednesday.

“I will find out in the next 24 hours. I’m going to get on the phone with someone and find out.”

Senator John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the administration was acting “as if they are unilateral”.

“We have to do what we need to assert our role,” he told CNN.

Corker and McCain are among President Donlad Trump’s fiercest Republican critics in Congress.

The White House is under fire as the deadline to begin the process of slapping fresh sanctions on Russia passed three and a half weeks ago.

Administration officials said on Wednesday that a review process was still underway to identify individuals connected to the Russian defence and intelligence services.

The White House has pinned the missed deadline on the State Department.

On Tuesday, the State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the agency was “working to try to complete that process”.

“My understanding — and I’m not working on this myself — but from our people who are working on it, they tell me that it’s pretty complicated, that it can take some time,” CNN quoted Nauert as saying.

The delay comes as Trump prepares to see Russian President Vladimir Putin for the second time face-to-face on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam.

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