Trump administration moves forward on Russia sanctions following 4-week delay

PHOTO: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson makes a statement at the State Department, Oct. 4, 2017, in Washington, D.C. PlayABC News
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The Trump administration broke its silence on new Russia sanctions Thursday, sending to Capitol Hill a list of Russian entities that it will sanction individuals for doing business with, following a four-week delay that infuriated senior members of Congress.

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The State Department's delivery -- a list and technical guidance regarding the sanctions obtained by ABC News -- is meant to comply with legislation President Donald Trump signed in August to impose new sanctions against Russia's defense and intelligence sectors. The sanctions have not yet been implemented.

After Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed off on the guidance Thursday morning, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan called Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker at 2:30 p.m. to relay it to him.

The State Department then informed other senior members of Congress, before it releases that guidance publicly some time “shortly,” according to spokesperson Heather Nauert, who said it is also informing private industry and allied countries.

“The guidance provided today by the State Department is a good first step in responsibly implementing a very complex piece of legislation,” Corker said in a statement. “Congress will expect thorough and timely consultation until full implementation is complete.”

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ben Cardin, D-Md. -- top Republican and Democratic senators on foreign policy who called out the administration for the delays in a letter earlier this month — welcomed the move as “step in the right direction toward holding Russia accountable for its attack on our election.”

But they warned they would continue to monitor the administration to “ensure the administration is following both the letter and the spirit of the law.”

PHOTO: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain speaks to reporters inside the Capitol on Oct. 26, 2017 in Washington.Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain speaks to reporters inside the Capitol on Oct. 26, 2017 in Washington.

The list, obtained by ABC News, includes 39 entities ranging from aircraft and helicopter manufacturers to engineering firms, a shipyard to Russia’s spy services, the FSB and the SVR.

As Corker noted, publishing this list does not mean these sanctions have been fully implemented. This portion of the law required the administration to issue guidance on who these Russian defense and intelligence entities are by Oct. 1 -– a deadline they blew past -– and then start sanctioning individuals and businesses that were engaged in “significant” transactions with them starting on Jan. 29, 2018.

There is no asset freeze for or blocking of the members on the list, according to State Department guidance obtained by ABC News. Instead, the sanctions are for any individuals or entities that do business with them. The list is being made public so far in advance to give American businesses and allied countries enough time to make sure they are not be in violation by implementation day.

In addition, the Trump administration's guidance has concluded that the definition of a “significant” transaction will be decided on a case-by-case basis looking at its impact on U.S. national security and Russia’s intelligence and defense agencies – giving them and companies wiggle room to argue a deal is “not significant.”

That gave McCain and Cardin pause, with the two remarking that it "allows for notable discretion" and vowing to "closely examine how the administration decides to define" the term.

The State Department defended itself from Republican and Democratic critics, over the missed deadline, with Nauert saying the delay was because, “It’s complex, complicated, and industry needs to know what will happen if they engage in certain activities… We were given about two months to pull it together, which is a relatively short period of time.”

Tillerson was “hands-on” in the process, she added, but not specifically in pulling names of individuals and entities.

ABC News' Mariam Khan contributed to this report.

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