ShareThis Page
Democratic lawmakers call for delay in easing sanctions on close ally of Russia’s Putin |

Democratic lawmakers call for delay in easing sanctions on close ally of Russia’s Putin

The Washington Post
| Thursday, January 10, 2019 10:11 p.m
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks to reporters after giving a classified briefing to members of the House of Representatives, telling them that the Trump administration will keep strict U.S. sanctions on the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.

WASHINGTON — House Democrats said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to convince them in a closed briefing Thursday that the United States should lift sanctions on a Russian aluminum company controlled by a Vladimir Putin ally, calling for more information and a delay.

Treasury notified Congress last month that it planned to lift sanctions on Rusal, an aluminum company controlled by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Treasury said the Russian business leader will remain under personal sanctions but that sanctions on Rusal and two other firms could be lifted because Deripaska had agreed to reduce his ownership in the companies below 50 percent.

“This, with stiff competition, mind you, was one of the worst classified briefings we’ve received from the Trump administration,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said after the briefing. “The secretary barely testified. He answered some questions, but he didn’t give testimony.”

Asked whether House Democrats were considering introducing a resolution of disapproval to try to stop Treasury from easing the sanctions, as Democratic leader Charles Schumer has done in the Senate, Pelosi said: “We’ll see.”

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said he had requested during the briefing for Treasury to delay lifting the sanctions until it can answer further questions about the terms of Deripaska reducing his ownership in the companies.

“I think there’s a real question about whether he’s effectively divested his stake, and we need more facts about that,” Doggett said.

In an emailed statement before the briefing, Mnuchin said the sanctions had met their goal. “One of the goals of sanctions is to change behavior, and the proposed delistings of companies that Deripaska will no longer control show that sanctions can result in positive change,” Mnuchin said.

Washington’s sanctions on Rusal and two other Deripaska-controlled firms, enacted last year, clobbered the oligarch financially, sinking the market value of his publicly traded companies. They also caused havoc far beyond Russia. Global aluminum prices spiked, battering U.S. and European companies and prompting complaints from European allies.

A holding company connected to Deripaska and Rusal lobbied the Trump administration heavily to lift the sanctions. The chairman of the company hired Mercury Public Affairs and former U.S. senator David Vitter to call on the State Department and other officials.

The Treasury Department informed Congress on Dec. 19 that it intended to lift the sanctions on Rusal and the other two firms in 30 days because the companies had agreed to reduce Deripaska’s ownership stake below 50 percent.

The letter suggested Treasury wanted to lift the sanctions in part because of the havoc they caused in metals markets. The letter noted that aluminum prices soared and that “Rusal subsidiaries in the United States, Ireland, Sweden, Jamaica, Guinea and elsewhere faced imminent closure.”

Deripaska will not receive any cash as a result of the transactions necessary to reduce his ownership of Rusal or the other companies, Treasury said in the letter. And any future dividends he is entitled to from his reduced ownership stake will be placed into a blocked account, it said.

Categories: News | Politics Election
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.