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Putin and Trump at G20 summit in Japan in 2019. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The top Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter to President Trump on Tuesday requesting an investigation into the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and leading critic of President Vladimir Putin.

Why it matters: Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) note that U.S. law requires the administration to determine within 60 days whether an accused country has used chemical weapons in violation of international law. If this is the case, U.S. sanctions must be imposed.

The big picture: The Trump administration previously slapped sanctions on Russia under the same Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 after determining that the Kremlin used a nerve agent to target former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal on British soil.

The other side: Trump told reporters last Friday he doesn't "know exactly what happened" to Navalny, despite the German government's assessment that the poisoning was conducted with Novichok — the same agent used to target Skripal.

  • "We have not had any proof yet, but we will take a look. ... I would be very angry if that is the case." Trump said Friday of the German government's analysis.
  • World leaders including U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg have condemned the attack and demanded an independent investigation.

What they're saying: "The poisoning of Mr. Navalny is particularly disturbing given that a Novichok agent was also used in a March 2018 attack on former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England," Engel and McCaul wrote.

  • "Those responsible for this despicable attack must be held accountable, and Russian President Vladimir Putin must know that he and his cronies will not be allowed to violate international law with impunity."

Go deeper

Dec 14, 2020 - World

U.S. sanctions Turkey for purchasing Russian defense system in 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump. Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. has imposed sanctions against Turkey for purchasing the Russian S-400 air defense system in 2017, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday.

Why it matters: The sanctions are likely to heighten tensions between the two NATO allies just as President-elect Joe Biden, who has called President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan an "autocrat," is set to take office.

17 mins ago - World

Israeli and Palestinian officials are speaking again

Isaac Herzog (L), then the leader of the opposition, meets with Mahmoud Abbas in 2015. Photo: Abbas MomaniI/AFP via Getty

Relations between the new Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have shifted substantially in recent weeks, with Israeli officials going so far as to call it “a renaissance."

Why it matters: During Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year tenure as prime minister, relations deteriorated to the point where there was almost no contact other than security coordination.

49 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan group reaches agreement on $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure bill

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

After weeks of long nights and endless Zoom calls, a bipartisan group of senators finally reached a deal on "the major issues" in their $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure package, GOP senators involved in the talks announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: It could be days before the group finishes writing the bill, but the Senate can begin debating the legislation in earnest now that they have resolved the outstanding issues. The bill needs 60 votes to advance in the Senate.