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Congressman Russell contends Iran can’t be trusted; encourages states to impose investment sanctions

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U.S. Rep. Steve Russell
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DEL CITY, Okla. – U.S. Rep. Steve Russell minced no words Friday when he told about two dozen supporters that Iran can’t be trusted while adding he understands Israel’s hardline stance over the nuclear arms deal brokered by the United States.

The nuclear deal, reached in July between Iran and six world powers including the U.S., passed a crucial milestone when the U.S. Congress failed to adopt a resolution of disapproval that essentially could have blocked the deal from moving forward. The deal removed economic sanctions and returns $150 billion in frozen assets to the Iranian government.

However, Russell contends since the deal is not a treaty, states can impose sanctions of their own, including restriction of investments with entities that were on the federal government’s previous sanction list.

“We’re targeting Iran, not the president or the opposing party,” the congressman said, during the Town Hall meeting at Del City High School.

In August, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette sent a letter to all 50 states urging them to impose or strengthen state-based sanctions against Iran. To date, 25 states from New York to California have exercised their authority and issued sanctions to prohibit investment of state assets in Iran.

“To those states, we are encouraging them to strengthen and expand existing sanctions. For the other 25 states, we are urging governors and attorneys general, as those elected to enforce laws and ensure good stewardship of public funds, to aggressively move to enact strong sanctions against Iran as soon as possible,” Pruitt said. 

During the summer, Russell took an eight-day trip to Israel where he saw the security measures Israeli citizens must endure every day to avoid missile strikes from rebels.

“It gives you an appreciation of the position Israel is in,” he said. “We got a comprehensive view of everything there. With the isolation they feel, their focus is almost 100 percent on Iran. Thirty six years of bad behavior (by Iran) does not equal good behavior now. Iran is not a nation that can be trusted. We are opposed to this effort (nuclear deal) and we believe it is unconstitutional.”

On Thursday, the U.S. House passed House Resolution 3457, The Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act, which Russell co-sponsored with Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Meehan. The resolution ensures Iran would not receive any of its frozen assets until more than $40 billion in unpaid damages due to terrorism is paid to American victims as determined by U.S. courts.

Meanwhile, Russell introduced House Resolution 454 on Thursday, which reaffirms that President Barack Obama’s presidential waiver granting relief from certain sanctions against Iran will not be recognized by Congress. The measure was assigned to the House Foreign Affairs committee.

Already, the president has threatened to veto the measure, Russell said.

Russell also spoke about the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act by the House, increases in insurance premiums for military retirees, wind energy, oil and gas issues and his thoughts on the Republican presidential race, which caught the attention of everyone in attendance.

Russell said he’s personally undecided, but offered a few comments on Donald Trump and his campaign style.

“No doubt, he’s tapping into people’s anger, but you can be angry without attacking people,” he said. “Attacking someone speaks to a person’s character. You can attack a problem, just as we did in the military, and still be humane toward each other.”

Russell labeled Trump “competent” due to his business success, but questioned his lack of civility.

“I’ve had to take a human life. I’ve seen friends die and I want to stay as far away from that as I can,” said Russell, who aided in the capture of Saddam Hussain and retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel. “You can have civility in any circumstance.”

Russell supporters said they were glad to see the congressman at his high school alma mater, where he graduated in 1981.

“He’s a straight, honest shooter,” said Mark Tarpley, a retired Air Force colonel. “He’s right about the geostrategic environment and the things that will impact the military and their families. He’s right on track. His firsthand experience is invaluable dealing with foreign operators over there. He’s been at the tip of the spear.”

Kevin Hall, a former classmate of Russell’s, said he was impressed with how Russell answered his question about the Republican presidential race.

“I liked what he said about character and its importance in the race. He talked about the things that mean the most to me,” he said.

Russell returns to Washington next week where he’ll participate in the vote to elect a new Speaker of the House following the resignation of John Boehner.

“One third will hate it (results) and one third will probably hate it, but we have to elect leadership that can get the job done.”

The vote is set for noon on Thursday.

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Tim Farley

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