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Trump Administration Expels Russian Diplomats and Imposes Russia-Related Sanctions


During the spring of 2018, the Trump administration expelled sixty Russian intelligence officers and diplomats and also imposed sanctions against various Russian individuals and companies. These actions responded to a range of actions attributed to Russia, including a poisoning on U.K. soil, its efforts to destabilize Ukraine, its support of the Assad regime in Syria, and various cyber activities.

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1 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Holding Russia Accountable for Its Destabilizing Behavior (Mar. 26, 2018), at [] [hereinafter Mar. 26 State Press Release]; U.S. Dep't of Treasury Press Release, Treasury Designates Russian Oligarchs, Officials, and Entities in Response to Worldwide Malign Activity (Apr. 6, 2018), at [] [hereinafter Apr. 6 Treasury Press Release]. For an account of prior responses by the administration to Russian behavior, including other sanctions imposed earlier in the spring, see Galbraith, Jean, Contemporary Practice of the United States, 113 AJIL 296 (2018).

2 Guy Faulconbridge & Michael Holden, Explainer: The Poisoning of Former Russian Double Agent Sergei Skripal, Reuters (Mar. 13, 2018), at

3 Prime Minster Theresa May, Statement to the House of Commons Following the Salisbury Incident (Mar. 14, 2018), at; see also Ashley Deeks, Prime Minister May's Use-of-Force Claim: Clarifying the Law That Governs the U.K's Options, Lawfare (Mar. 13, 2018), (discussing the international legal implications of this determination).

4 Katie Rogers & Eileen Sullivan, Trump and Western Allies Expel Scores of Russians in Sweeping Rebuke Over U.K. Poisoning, N.Y. Times (Mar. 26, 2018), at

5 Mar. 26 State Press Release, supra note 1.

6 White House Press Release, Statement from the Press Secretary on the Expulsion of Russian Intelligence Officers (Mar. 26, 2018), at [].

7 UN Security Council Press Release, Full Investigation Must Swiftly Identify, Apprehend Perpetrators, Security Council Hears During Heated Discussion on Salisbury Chemical Attack, UN Press Release SC/13279 (Apr. 5, 2018), at []; Andrew Higgins, Expelling Diplomats, a Furious Kremlin Escalates a Crisis, N.Y. Times (Mar. 29, 2018), at

8 White House Press Release, Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding Russia's Expulsion of American Diplomats (Mar. 29, 2018), at [].

9 Apr. 6 Treasury Press Release, supra note 1. The Department of the Treasury's press release did not specifically reference the Salisbury poisoning in announcing the sanctions. See id.

10 Id. (also referencing Executive Order 13582 as an authority); see also Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, Pub. L. No. 115-44, §§ 222, 223, 131 Stat. 886, 906-08 (2017).

11 Apr. 6 Treasury Press Release, supra note 1 (further providing a wind-down period).

12 Id.; see also Galbraith, supra note 1, at 301–03 (describing this list and the CAATSA provision giving rise to it).

13 Apr. 6 Treasury Press Release, supra note 1.

14 White House Press Release, Readout of President Donald J. Trump's Call With President Vladimir Putin of Russia (Mar. 20, 2018), at [].

15 Office of Senator John McCain Press Release, Statement by SASC Chairman John McCain on President Trump Congratulating Vladimir Putin (Mar. 20, 2018), at

16 Transcript: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on “Face the Nation,” April 15, 2018, CBS News (Apr. 15, 2018), at

17 White House Press Release, United States Government Assessment of the Assad Regime's Chemical Weapons Use (Apr. 13, 2018), at []. Trump, in subsequent tweets, declared Putin and Russia responsible and promised there would be a “[b]ig price” to pay. See Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter (Apr. 8, 2018, 6:00 AM), at; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter (Apr. 8, 2018, 6:04 AM), at

18 Peter Baker, Julie Davis & Maggie Haberman, Sanctions Flap Erupts Into Open Conflict Between Haley and White House, N.Y. Times (Apr. 17, 2018), at (describing a back-and-forth in which a White House official characterized Haley as experiencing “momentary confusion” with respect to her announcement of additional sanctions and Haley responded that “I don't get confused”).

19 U.S. Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller was appointed in May 2017 to investigate possible Russian interference and links to the Trump campaign. Rod J. Rosenstein, Acting Attorney General, Order. No. 3915-2017 re Appointment of Special Counsel to Investigate Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election and Related Matters (May 17, 2017), available at []. On February 16, 2018, thirteen Russian nationals and three companies were indicted. Indictment, United States v. Internet Research Agency LLC, No. 1:18-cr-00032-DLF, 2018 WL 914777 (D.D.C. filed Feb. 16, 2018), available at []. On April 20, 2018, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) filed a lawsuit against, among other persons and entities, the Russian government and the Trump campaign, alleging, among other things, that the campaign conspired with Russia in relation to hacked DNC emails. Complaint, Democratic Nat'l Comm. v. Russ. Fed'n, No. 1-18-cv-03501, 2018 WL 1885868 (S.D.N.Y. filed Apr. 20, 2018).

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American Journal of International Law
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