Last week, President Trump signed an executive order that significantly enhanced US enforcement of the Magnitsky Act. The Magnitsky Act, you will recall, is the law that the never Trumpers claim that Donald Trump, Jr., and through him, presumably, President Trump, agreed not to enforce if Russia would hand the election to Trump by sabotaging Hillary Clinton’s planned visits to Wisconsin, Michigan, and the wilds of Pennsyltucky. This is the collusion that they are looking for.
This is the Washington Post headline: Trump puts the world’s worst crooks and killers on notice. (As an aside, the reporter, Josh Rogin, has a horrendous track record of reporting any thinly sourced lie he can find about Trump and has blocked me on Twitter for pointing that out to him.) This is the Executive Order.
After months of conflicting messages, last week the Trump administration took a big step toward drastically expanding punishments for human rights abusers and kleptocrats all over the world. The move also reveals how government professionals and political officials inside the administration are finding ways to work together one year into the Trump presidency.
There was understandable skepticism that the Trump team would enthusiastically enforce the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, signed by President Barack Obama in his final days in office, which authorizes the president to block visas and sanction individuals and entities from any country that abuses human rights or engages in “acts of significant corruption.” But the first-ever list of 51 such targets, announced by the State and Treasury departments on Dec. 21, was a clear sign the Trump administration is supporting the law and implementing it in good faith.
The world’s worst crooks and killers should be running scared. The law and the executive order President Trump issued make it much easier for the U.S. government to single out and punish egregious cases of abuse. Included in the list were Artem Chayka, the son of the prosecutor general of Russia; Gao Yan, a senior Chinese security official; and Maung Maung Soe, who oversaw Burmese military atrocities against ethnic Rohingya.
“Today, the United States is taking a strong stand against human rights abuse and corruption globally by shutting these bad actors out of the U.S. financial system,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, promising that the Trump administration would continue holding human rights abusers to account.
A senior administration official said last week’s actions were meant to set the standard going forward for Trump’s human rights policy. Although Congress requires an annual report on the law’s implementation, the Trump team is expected to issue new Global Magnitsky sanctions on a rolling basis, meaning rights abusers cannot enjoy confidence that they are safe at any time.
Again, this is a case of the Obama Administration, just like with ISIS, talking smack about human rights and the Trump Administration doing something.