Democrats ques­tion Trea­sury chief about Rus­sian oli­garch

Miami Herald - - NATION - BY MARY CLARE JALONICK As­so­ci­ated Press

Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin told law­mak­ers in a clas­si­fied brief­ing Thursday that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will keep strict U.S. sanc­tions on Oleg Deri­paska and any com­pa­nies he owns, but Democrats say they still have con­cerns that the govern­ment is be­ing too soft on the Rus­sian oli­garch.

In one of Democrats’ first over­sight moves as the new ma­jor­ity in the House, seven com­mit­tee chair­men wrote to Mnuchin on Tuesday and asked him to ex­plain by the end of the week why the U.S. de­cided to ease sanc­tions on three com­pa­nies linked to Deri­paska. Mnuch­in­came to Capi­tol Hill to an­swer ques­tions about the mat­ter, but Democrats leav­ing the meet­ing said his an­swers weren’t suf­fi­cient.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was “un­im­pressed” with Mnuchin’s brief­ing, say­ing that he was not fully forth­com­ing in the clas­si­fied set­ting and was “wast­ing the time of the mem­bers of Con­gress.”

Asked if the House might move to block Trea­sury’s ac­tions, Pelosi said “we’ll see.”

The Democrats were ask­ing Mnuchin about a De­cem­ber an­nounce­ment that the U.S. would lift sanc­tions on the three com­pa­nies — the alu­minum man­u­fac­tur­ing giant Rusal, EN+ Group, and the Rus­sian power com­pany JSC EuroSibEn­ergo. EN+ Group is a hold­ing com­pany that owns nearly 50 per­cent of Rusal. In the let­ter, the Democrats said the sanc­tions deal ap­pears to al­low Deri­paska to keep “sig­nif­i­cant own­er­ship” of one of the com­pa­nies.

Con­gress has 30 days to block the move to ter­mi­nate the sanc­tions, but Democrats have asked for an ex­ten­sion. Trea­sury an­nounced the move just be­fore the De­cem­ber re­cess. Democrats said they haven’t had enough time to re­view it.

The Trea­sury Depart­ment main­tains that Deri­paska will re­main black­listed as part of sanc­tions that tar­geted ty­coons close to the Krem­lin, and that the com­pa­nies have com­mit­ted to di­min­ish Deri­paska’s own­er­ship and sever his con­trol.

In a state­ment re­leased ahead of the brief­ing, Mnuchin re­it­er­ated that Deri­paska re­mains un­der sanc­tions, “his prop­erty and in­ter­ests re­main blocked, and any com­pa­nies he con­trols are also sanctioned.”

The three com­pa­nies were orig­i­nally tar­geted be­cause they were owned or ma­jor­ity-con­trolled by Deri­paska. “These en­ti­ties are un­der­go­ing sig­nif­i­cant re­struc­tur­ing and gov­er­nance changes that sever Deri­paska’s con­trol and sig­nif­i­cantly di­min­ish his own­er­ship,” Mnuchin said in the state­ment. “They have com­mit­ted to pro­vide Trea­sury with an un­prece­dented level of trans­parency into their deal­ings to en­sure that Deri­paska does not re­assert con­trol. As a re­sult, these en­ti­ties will no longer be des­ig­nated for sanc­tions.”

Mnuchin also spoke briefly af­ter the hear­ing to dis­pute Pelosi’s as­ser­tion that he was not forth­com­ing, say­ing he “an­swered all their ques­tions.”

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE AP

Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin speaks to re­porters af­ter giv­ing a clas­si­fied brief­ing to House mem­bers on Thursday.

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