Sun Editorial:

By refusing to punish Russia, Trump proves he is more wimp than warrior

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Win McNamee / AP

President Donald Trump claps during the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, in Washington.

Americans may not know exactly what kind of incriminating information the Russians have on Donald Trump, but one thing became crystal clear Tuesday when the White House informed Congress it was refusing to implement sanctions against Russia.

Trump is terrified of Russia. He’s a coward — not man enough to stand up for his nation against the active threat that the Russians are posing.

Trump’s flinch on the sanctions was the most glaring sign yet that he’s running scared from Russia. Whether it was missing an earlier deadline on the sanctions or saying it was “not a good thing for our country” that Russian President Vladimir Putin was insulted by allegations of meddling in the 2016 election, Trump has shown time and again that he’s submissive.

Let’s remember that the sanctions approved by Congress were specifically aimed at the election interference, and that the House and Senate passed them by a combined vote of 517-5. If that’s not a battle cry for action, nothing is.

But after missing a deadline Monday to crack down on entities that do “significant” business with Russian defense or intelligence agencies, the Trump White House turned a provision in the sanctions legislation into a closet to hide in, metaphorically speaking.

The clause required the administration to levy penalties “unless Congress is notified that prospective targets are ‘substantially reducing’ that business.”

In essence, the Trump administration said the new sanctions were not necessary because the threat of new penalties was keeping targeted businesses in line.

“Given the long time frames generally associated with major defense deals, the results of this effort are only beginning to become apparent,” a State Department spokesman said in an email. “From that perspective, if the law is working, sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent.”

Not only was the statement a kiss-off to Congress and the American people, but its wording made it even more apparent that Trump was appeasing Russia. Not once did it mention Russian interference in U.S. domestic affairs and particularly the election, for example. Instead, it referenced Russia’s “aggression in Ukraine, interference in other nations’ domestic affairs and abuses of human rights.”

Trump’s supporters may point out that the administration followed up by issuing a list spotlighting Russian oligarchs and senior members of the political administration in the Kremlin.

But so what? The issuance of the list was required by Congress. And although Putin called publication of the list “an unfriendly act,” he rewarded Trump’s deference by calling it an attack on the American president by the American people. We also find ourselves wondering how many on that list might have been involved in real estate transactions with Trump properties.

The upshot is that Congress gave Trump a pretty big stick and told him to hit hard with it, but Trump instead gave Putin a sloppy kiss on the cheek.

Now, the question is how much longer are congressional Republicans going to let the U.S. carry on with a coward in chief who won’t respond to a serious threat to our democracy? How long will they allow Trump to run amok just because he is their guy? Has all leadership of the GOP become Russian patsies?

American voters are waiting for an answer.