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President Donald Trump meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

With the first round of U.S. sanctions on Iran set to resume tonight at midnight, the European Union is taking steps to protect its companies that do "legitimate business" with Iran from being harmed.

The big picture: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has refused to grant broad exemptions to European companies doing business with Iran, citing a need to apply "unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime.” But the EU, frustrated by President Trump's unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May, will exercise a 1996 law to prohibit European companies from complying with sanctions.

"The lifting of nuclear-related sanctions is an essential part of the [Iran] deal — it aims at having a positive impact not only on trade and economic relations with Iran, but most importantly on the lives of the Iranian people. We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran, in accordance with EU law and with U.N. Security Council resolution 2231. This is why the European Union’s updated Blocking Statute enters into force on 7 August to protect EU companies doing legitimate business with Iran from the impact of U.S. extra-territorial sanctions."
— European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

The details: Under the "Blocking Statute," which was originally developed (but never implemented) to circumvent a U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, companies that seek to pull out of Iran as a result of the sanctions must first seek authorization from the EU. If they fail to do so, they risk being sued by EU member states.

  • Companies that apply for exemptions must prove that the U.S. sanctions are hurting their business operations.
  • The 1996 law has never actually been exercised, and some diplomats and lawyers have doubts about how effective it can be in protecting firms, per the Financial Times.

A senior U.S. administration official told reporters Monday that they were "not particularly concerned" about the statute. The official claimed that "the messages [European] companies and financial institutions are sending" indicate an appreciation for the goal of the sanctions: to expose the Central Bank of Iran's complicity in helping to fund terror.

Go deeper: The companies hit hardest by Iran sanctions.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."

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