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Trump on more U.S. troops in Afghanistan: 'We'll see'

Donald Trump is pictured. | Getty

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Treasury fines ExxonMobil $2 million for violating Russia sanctions while Tillerson was CEO

2017-06-05-rex-tillerson-getty-1160.jpg

When current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO, he said Exxon didn't support sanctions generally because it found them usually ineffective. | Getty

By Victoria Guida

07/20/2017 10:35 AM EDT

Updated 07/20/2017 12:54 PM EDT

2017-07-20T12:54-0400

The Treasury Department said Thursday it is fining Exxon Mobil Corp. $2 million for violating sanctions related to Russia in 2014, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO of the company.

In May of that year, the presidents of Exxon Mobil's U.S. subsidiaries signed eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with Igor Sechin, head of Russian oil giant Rosneft, the Treasury said. Sechin had personally been sanctioned by Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control following Russia's incursion into Ukraine.

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The fine is a pittance for Exxon Mobil, which reported $4 billion in earnings for the first quarter of this year. But the optics of one U.S. government department fining the former company of the head of another department are awkward.

Tillerson has long spoken against the sanctions on Russia, arguing at an Exxon shareholder meeting the same month as the alleged violations that “we don’t find them to be effective unless they are very well implemented comprehensively, and that’s a very hard thing to do.”

Just last month, he argued against toughening sanctions on Russia.

Exxon Mobil said the administration, in its explanation of the sanctions policy, made a distinction between actions taken by Sechin in his personal capacity, which were not permitted, as opposed to his professional capacity.

Treasury said there was no such legal distinction, adding that no materials from the White House or the department itself “asserted an exception or carve-out for the professional conduct of designated or block persons, nor did any materials suggest that U.S. persons could continue to conduct or engage in business with such individuals.”

In a statement, company spokesman Scott Silvestri called the move “fundamentally unfair.”

“Exxon Mobil followed the clear guidance from the White House and Treasury Department when its representatives signed documents involving ongoing oil and gas activities in Russia with Rosneft — a non-blocked entity — that were countersigned on behalf of Rosneft by CEO Igor Sechin in his official representative capacity,” Silvestri said.

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He pointed to a statement on May 16, 2014, by a Treasury spokesperson, “who said by way of example that BP’s American CEO was permitted to participate in Rosneft board meetings with Sechin so long as the activity related to Rosneft’s business and not Sechin’s personal business.”

Silvestri said the Treasury Department “is trying to retroactively enforce a new interpretation of an executive order that is inconsistent with the explicit and unambiguous guidance from the White House and Treasury issued before the relevant conduct.”

Treasury, in its explanation of the action, said the company

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Sessions: No plans to resign after Trump attack

'I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate,' the attorney general says.

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Sessions: No plans to resign after Trump criticism

'I plan to continue...as long as that is appropriate,' the attorney general says.

By Josh Gerstein

07/20/2017 10:32 AM EDT

Updated 07/20/2017 12:13 PM EDT

2017-07-20T12:13-0400

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Thursday he plans to stay on in his current job, even after President Donald Trump harshly criticized him a day earlier for recusing himself from the ongoing Russia investigation.

“I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate,” Sessions said at a Department of Justice press conference.

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In response to a flurry of questions about Trump’s public attacks on the top Justice Department leaders in a New York Times interview, Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein took a “nothing to see here” approach, insisting that the president’s statements had not undermined their ability to do their jobs.

“We inside this Department of Justice will continue every single day to work hard to serve the national interest and to wholeheartedly join in the priorities of President Trump,” Sessions said. “I have the honor of serving as attorney general. It’s something that goes beyond any thought that I would have ever had for myself. We love this job. We love this department.”

Asked how he could continue without Trump’s confidence, Sessions did not appear to dispute that the president was displeased with him.

“We’re serving right now. What we’re doing today is the kind of work that we intend to continue,” the attorney general said, referring to an announcement the Justice Department made Thursday about the dismantling of massive ‘dark web’ sites said to be trading in drugs, child pornography, weapons and other contraband. “I’m totally confident that we can continue to run this office in an effective way.”

Trump told the Times in an interview Wednesday that he would not have hired Sessions if he’d known his attorney general would recuse himself from the Russia probe. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you,’” Trump told the paper.

Trump also suggested Rosenstein had made a mistake by naming a special counsel to take over the Russia investigation after Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey. The president also questioned the deputy attorney general’s political allegiance, saying: “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore.”

Rosenstein offered no direct reaction to the swipe, nor did he rise to the defense of his hometown.

“We are working here every day to advance the priorities of the president and the administration,” Rosenstein said. “I was proud to be here yesterday. I’m proud to be here today. I’ll be proud to be here tomorrow. And we are spending every minute working to advance the interests of the department.”

The deputy attorney general then said he wouldn’t take any further questions on topics other than the cybercrime take-down.

The Justice Department press conference was also attended by

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Wray’s FBI nomination approved by Senate committee

Christopher Wray is pictured here.

FBI Director nominee Christopher Wray is sworn-on on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 12, 2017, prior to testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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