Democrats try­ing to keep sanc­tions against oli­garch

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD - By Ken­neth P. Vo­gel and Alan Rappe­port Ken­neth P. Vo­gel and Alan Rappe­port are New York Times writ­ers.

WASH­ING­TON — Se­nate Democrats in­tend to force a vote this week on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s move to lift sanc­tions against com­pa­nies con­trolled by an in­flu­en­tial Rus­sian oli­garch, in­ten­si­fy­ing a new line of scru­tiny of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of Rus­sia pol­icy.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the sanc­tions on the busi­ness em­pire of Oleg Deri­paska should re­main in place and that a deal ne­go­ti­ated by the Trea­sury Depart­ment to re­move them was “flawed and fails to suf­fi­ciently limit” Deri­paska’s “con­trol and in­flu­ence of these com­pa­nies.”

Schumer an­nounced Satur­day that he in­tended to use a pro­vi­sion in a 2017 sanc­tions law to prompt a full Se­nate vote as soon as Tues­day on a res­o­lu­tion to block the Trea­sury Depart­ment’s deal with Deri­paska’s com­pa­nies. But to ap­prove the mea­sure, Democrats would need the sup­port of sev­erMnuchin al Repub­li­cans, which would re­quire them to split with Pres­i­dent Trump on the is­sue. The Demo­cratic-con­trolled House would also have to pass it.

Democrats have in­creas­ingly seized on the Trea­sury Depart­ment’s de­ci­sion to grant sanc­tions re­lief to Deri­paska’s com­pa­nies as ev­i­dence that Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion have been soft on Rus­sia. Trump has made a series of state­ments def­er­en­tial to­ward Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin of Rus­sia, and the spe­cial coun­sel is ex­am­in­ing whether the Trump cam­paign co­or­di­nated with the Krem­lin to med­dle in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Newly em­pow­ered House Democrats called on Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin to de­fend the move to lift sanc­tions in a clas­si­fied brief­ing Thurs­day. After­ward, they ex­pressed their dis­sat­is­fac­tion with his re­sponses and de­manded that he de­lay the lift­ing of the sanc­tions to re­view the de­ci­sion and “rel­e­vant in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ments.”

sug­gested that he was open to ex­tend­ing a Jan. 17 dead­line for lift­ing the sanc­tions to give con­gres­sional skep­tics more time to re­view it, but he gave no in­di­ca­tion that he was re­think­ing the un­der­ly­ing de­ci­sion.

The goal of the sanc­tions, which were an­nounced by the Trea­sury Depart­ment in April, was to pun­ish the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment and key sup­port­ers for the in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion, among other hos­tile acts. Not­ing Deri­paska’s con­nec­tions to the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment and ac­cu­sa­tions of links to Rus­sian or­ga­nized crime, the Trea­sury Depart­ment an­nounced sanc­tions against the oli­garch per­son­ally, as well as three of his com­pa­nies that play a ma­jor role in the global alu­minum sup­ply.

But the depart­ment de­layed the sanc­tions against Deri­paska’s com­pa­nies sev­eral times amid an ag­gres­sive lob­by­ing and le­gal cam­paign.

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