Democrats’ vote on sanc­tions to force show­down on Rus­sia

Schumer wants an­swers on firms linked to oli­garch

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN AND ALEX SWOYER

Se­nate Democrats will force a vote this week to over­turn the Trea­sury Depart­ment’s move to re­lax sanc­tions on com­pa­nies con­nected to a Rus­sian oli­garch, push­ing the var­i­ous ten­ta­cles of the 2016 Rus­sia elec­tion med­dling probe back to the fore­front.

Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer an­nounced the de­ci­sion early Sun­day morn­ing, say­ing there are too many ques­tions about why the Trea­sury Depart­ment is cut­ting a break to three com­pa­nies as­so­ci­ated with Oleg Deri­paska.

“I have con­cluded that the Trea­sury Depart­ment’s pro­posal is flawed and fails to suf­fi­ciently limit Oleg Deri­paska’s con­trol and in­flu­ence of these com­pa­nies, and the Se­nate should move to block this mis­guided ef­fort by the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion and keep these sanc­tions in place,” the New York Demo­crat said in a state­ment.

He said the eas­ing was a par­tic­u­lar mis­fire “given Mr. Deri­paska’s po­ten­tial in­volve­ment with [for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man] Paul Manafort.”

Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties say Mr. Manafort re­ported ow­ing $10 mil­lion on a loan from Mr. Deri­paska on a 2010 tax form.

Last week, The New York Times re­ported Mr. Manafort at­tempted to pass polling data dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign to Mr. Deri­paska. But The Times later

is­sued a cor­rec­tion that it had the wrong oli­garch iden­ti­fied, and Mr. Manafort had in­stead asked the in­for­ma­tion be sent to other oli­garchs.

What­ever the facts, Democrats are eye­ing a ma­jor dust-up and a chance to spend floor time blast­ing Mr. Trump over al­le­ga­tions of elec­tion con­spir­acy with the Rus­sians — and the op­por­tu­nity to make GOP law­mak­ers take a vote ei­ther de­fend­ing or im­plic­itly con­demn­ing the pres­i­dent.

Democrats are us­ing a part of the law that gives Congress a 30-day win­dow to re­view and at­tempt to block sanc­tions de­ci­sions.

That time­line means a vote must take place be­fore Jan. 17.

Mr. Schumer started the clock run­ning on Jan. 4 when he an­nounced in­tro­duc­tion of a res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval, but said at the time he hadn’t made a fi­nal de­ci­sion about whether to pull the trig­ger.

The Trea­sury Depart­ment on Dec. 19 an­nounced it was re­mov­ing EN+ Group Plc, JSC EuroSibEn­ergo, and United Co. Rusal Plc from the U.S. sanc­tions list, say­ing it had ne­go­ti­ated an agree­ment to re­move them from con­trol of Mr. Dereipaska, who is seen to have close ties to the Krem­lin.

Mr. Deri­paska was per­son­ally put on the sanc­tions list last April, with the ad­min­is­tra­tion say­ing he ap­peared to be in­volved in cor­rup­tion and money laun­der­ing, and “has said that he does not sep­a­rate him­self from the Rus­sian state.”

The sanc­tions de­bate comes as Democrats have ramped up their ques­tion­ing and crit­i­cism of the pres­i­dent’s re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia.

Sen. Mark Warner on Sun­day ac­cused the pres­i­dent of par­rot­ing Rus­sian poli­cies in the first two years of his pres­i­dency, af­ter The Washington Post re­ported the pres­i­dent has pre­vented other ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials from be­ing privy to his con­ver­sa­tions with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

“He never spoke ill about Rus­sia,” the Vir­ginia Demo­crat told CNN.

“It’s cu­ri­ous that through­out that whole sum­mer when these in­ves­ti­ga­tions started you had Vladimir Putin poli­cies al­most be­ing par­roted by Don­ald Trump,” the law­maker added.

Mr. Warner, the top Demo­crat on the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, said they have in­ter­viewed hun­dreds of wit­nesses in their probe re­gard­ing Rus­sian col­lu­sion dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion and have an “in­ter­est­ing story” to tell once the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­cluded.

The White House, though, dis­misses the re­ports about the FBI in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pres­i­dent, say­ing he has been tough on Rus­sia while in of­fice by im­pos­ing strict sanc­tions. On Satur­day, the pres­i­dent told Fox News the re­port he was pos­si­bly work­ing on be­half of Rus­sia were in­sult­ing.

But Mr. Warner said Congress im­posed the tough sanc­tions on Mr. Putin — not the pres­i­dent.

“The sanc­tions that were passed by Congress, they passed by such an over­whelm­ing amount Trump didn’t have the power to veto it,” Mr. Warner said.

Repub­li­can Sen. Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin told CNN his col­league was deal­ing in in­nu­endo and he’s anx­ious to hear what Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller finds once his re­port is is­sued.

“I don’t want to deal in spec­u­la­tion. I want to deal in facts,” Mr. John­son said.

He also sug­gested the pres­i­dent may not have cer­tain of­fi­cials privy to his talks with Mr. Putin due to pre­vi­ous leaks in his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“He was burned by leaks in other ar­eas and he was pretty frus­trated by it so that might be one ex­pla­na­tion,” the Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can said.

For­mer New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump ally, told ABC the pres­i­dent should “em­brace” The New York Times story about the FBI probe into him.

“It backs up his nar­ra­tive — his nar­ra­tive is that FBI agents were act­ing in a rogue man­ner over­step­ping the nor­mal course of busi­ness be­cause they had some­thing against him,” Mr. Christie said.

Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, South Carolina Repub­li­can, said he wants to know who leaked the in­for­ma­tion to The New York Times be­cause it shows an an­tiTrump agenda.

“It tells me a lot about the peo­ple run­ning the FBI,” Mr. Gra­ham told Fox News. “I don’t trust them as far as I’d throw them.”

The new Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee chair­man said he also wants to know how the FBI could open a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence probe into a sit­ting pres­i­dent.

“What kind of checks and bal­ances are there?” he said.

Mean­while, Rep. Eliot En­gel, New York Demo­crat, who chairs the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, said they’ll be look­ing into the pres­i­dent’s in­ter­ac­tions with Rus­sia fol­low­ing the re­ports about the FBI’s counter-in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Ev­ery time Trump meets with Putin, the coun­try is told noth­ing. Amer­ica de­serves the truth and the For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee will seek to get to the bot­tom of it,” Mr. En­gel tweeted on Sun­day.

He added, “We will be hold­ing hear­ings on the mys­ter­ies swirling around Trump’s bizarre re­la­tion­ship with Putin and his cronies, and how those dark deal­ings af­fect our na­tional se­cu­rity.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

PUSH­ING PROBE: Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer says he is sus­pi­cious of the Trea­sury’s move for three firms linked to Oleg Deri­paska.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, South Carolina Repub­li­can, said leak­ing the in­for­ma­tion to The New York Times shows an anti-Trump agenda. “It tells me a lot about the peo­ple run­ning the FBI,” Mr. Gra­ham said.

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