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Mnuchin will brief House lawmakers on Russia sanctions relief

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will brief House lawmakers on Thursday afternoon about the Treasury Departm...

Posted: Jan 9, 2019 8:09 PM
Updated: Jan 9, 2019 8:09 PM

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will brief House lawmakers on Thursday afternoon about the Treasury Department's decision to ease sanctions on companies tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, according to two Democratic sources.

The briefing marks a first step toward tougher oversight of the Trump administration on Russia-related matters. It comes as Democrats mull whether to formally push back against the sanctions relief for the Russian companies, announced last month.

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The Treasury Department moved to impose sanctions last April on Rusal, the world's second-largest aluminum producer, as well as EN+ Group, the company that holds Deripaska's stake in both Rusal and GAZ Group, a Russian automotive conglomerate.

Treasury said in a statement that both companies had made "significant restructuring and corporate governance changes."

Treasury officials did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday's briefing.

The December notification from the Treasury Department kicked off a 30-day review period for Congress.

On Monday, seven House Democratic committee chairmen sent a letter to Mnuchin raising concerns about terminating the sanctions and demanding a briefing. "As the chairs of committees with oversight jurisdiction over the US response to Russia's attempts to interfere in our elections and other hostile actions, we have a number of concerns about the agreement that the U.S. has reached with Mr. Deripaska," the lawmakers wrote.

Democrats in the House are still weighing whether to take any action to disapprove of the sanctions relief, and are likely to decide after Thursday's briefing, according to one of the Democratic sources.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, introduced a resolution of disapproval last week while the agreement is being reviewed, in order "to preserve the procedural option of moving to bring up such a resolution at the end of the review process."

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter last week to Mnuchin asking more than a dozen questions about lifting the sanctions on the Russian companies and how it will affect Deripaska.

In April, the Trump administration announced it would impose sanctions on Deripaska, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his business empire -- and was also close to now-convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort -- to prevent Deripaska and his companies from using the dollar and doing business with US citizens.

December's Treasury announcement explicitly said Deripaska would remain on the sanctions list and his property would remain blocked as required under law.

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