President Trump on Wednesday refused to say whether he would sign a Russia sanctions bill, adding uncertainty to the measure that is currently stalled in Congress.
"We have very heavy sanctions on Russia right now," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One while traveling to France.
"I would not and have never even thought about taking them off. Somebody said, Donald Trump wants to — I don’t want to take them off."
The Senate passed the sanctions bill 98-2 last month, but it has been stuck in the House due to partisan and procedural disputes.
The legislation codifies sanctions on Moscow for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Congress would be able to override Trump if he decided to lift the sanctions.
Behind the scenes, the White House has lobbied lawmakers to weaken the legislation, arguing the current bill infringes upon the president’s authority to conduct foreign affairs.
But supporters of the measure hope that the bombshell revelations about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign ramp up pressure on the House to advance the legislation.
Trump said he discussed the issue of sanctions with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Germany last week, but said the Russian leader did not raise the topic.
"I would never take the sanctions off until something is worked out to our satisfaction and everybody’s satisfaction in Syria and in Ukraine," Trump told reporters.
The exchange was initially declared off the record, but Trump gave journalists permission to report on his comments Thursday. The White House then circulated a transcript of selected excerpts of his remarks, which lasted roughly an hour.