Justice Department lawyers and security officials are reviewing Russia sanctions legislation awaiting President Donald Trump's signature in an indication of a signing statement that would stake out executive authority.
The process, which the White House calls a 'legal review' is an effort to scrub the legislation, which Congress passed by an overwhelming majority, to ensure that the president has maximum flexibility to interpret restrictions within the law as narrowly as possible.
'In this atmosphere, just like when we did signing statements, it’ll get noticed because everybody will believe like Trump’s not really going to implement what Congress wrote,' former Bush National Security Council official and House Intelligence panel staff director Michael Allen told DailyMail.com.
President George W. Bush issued 161 signing statements during his presidency, as a way to protect authority he considered to reside in the executive branch. Allen said Trump was certain to do so on the charged issue of sanctions relating to Russia.
'This will be a very serious constitutional issue. They use all these things like national interest determination: when you can invoke [sanctions], when you cannot,' he said.
'Of course they will' issue a signing statement, he said.
The White House acknowledged Tuesday that it was conducting a review of the legislation – but offered no other explanation for a delay in the signing of a bill Congress has now formally sent over to the White House.
'He has not [signed the bill]' said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, adding 'we’ll let you know when the details and final plan …'
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the White House was conducting a 'legal review' of sanctions legislation that the president has yet to sign
When pressed at the daily White House press briefing about why Trump hadn't signed it, she said: 'There’s nothing holding him back. There’s a review process, a legal process, they’re going through that and we’ll sign the bill and we’ll let you guys know.'
Then she added: 'As with every very particularly complex piece of legislation like this is, there’s a legal review and once we sign that we’ll work through and put more of the details of that process out.'
She didn't respond to a direct question from DailyMail.com