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Mnuchin meets with Senate GOP to shore up ranks on Russia sanctions vote

Mnuchin meets with Senate GOP to shore up ranks on Russia sanctions vote
© Anna Moneymaker

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinTreasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference Sanders defends push to impeach Trump: Insurrection won't be tolerated Ben Carson dismisses 25th Amendment talk: 'As a nation we need to heal' MORE met with Senate Republicans on Tuesday ahead of a key vote on Russia sanctions to prevent GOP defections on a Democratic-sponsored resolution that could embarrass President TrumpDonald TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit MORE.

Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneStreamlining the process of prior authorization for medical and surgical procedures McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Republicans eye primaries in impeachment vote MORE (S.D.) said ahead of Mnuchin’s lunchtime briefing that it would factor heavily into GOP colleagues’ votes on a resolution disapproving of the Treasury Department’s proposals to relax sanctions on a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, connected to Russian intelligence and organized crime.

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Asked whether he would vote for the resolution, Thune said, “We’re going to get a briefing on that at noon today so I think a lot of our members are anxious to ask questions.”

“We’ll see how that goes,” he said, adding whether the motion of disapproval advances “is still kind of an open question.”

Mnuchin was spotted walking into the Senate Republican luncheon a short time afterward.

The Treasury secretary told lawmakers that sanctions on three Russian companies should be eased in accordance with U.S. law because Deripaska’s ownership in the entities has fallen below 50 percent and he doesn’t control them. 

“That ownership has now fallen beneath 50 percent, which is the threshold established by the law. And so following the law, the sanctions on the public company should be removed,” said Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Senator releases photos of man wanted in connection with Capitol riot Electoral College fight splits GOP as opposition grows to election challenge MORE (R-La.), summarizing Mnuchin’s argument. 

Cassidy said that Mnuchin also noted that European or American executives sit on the corporate boards of the companies in question. 

“There is an issue of control as well as ownership. Now eight of the 12 members are Europeans or Americans, each of whom has passed a vetting process by our folks. So it feels as if control has also been ceded,” he said. 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time McConnell says he's undecided on whether to vote to convict Trump 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack MORE (R-Maine), however, a pivotal moderate, said she wanted to review a separate intelligence assessment before deciding how to vote. 

"I'm on my way to Intel and I want to read another document over there," she told reporters. "I have concerns about the Treasury's proposal."

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Democrats looking to speed through Senate impeachment trial MORE (D-N.Y.) is pushing for a vote on the resolution, which is expected to take place about 4 p.m. Tuesday.

It would disapprove of the Treasury’s proposal to relax sanctions on three companies owned and controlled by Deripaska, who has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence and organized crime, according to Schumer.

“Putin’s government, one of Russia’s largest banks, and the Russian economy have a direct interest in sanctions relief for Deripaska’s companies. Why is the Trump Administration proposing sanctions relief when President Putin has not yet made any move to curtail or constrain his malign activities around the globe?” Schumer asked on the Senate floor Tuesday morning.

The measure needs a simple-majority vote to begin debate. If Tuesday’s procedural motion is successful, the resolution would still need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and another simple-majority vote to pass.

Schumer argued in a "Dear Colleague" letter sent to every member of the Senate on Monday that sanctions relief would provide a much-needed boost to the Russian economy.

“Removing sanctions on these companies will benefit the Russian government, since the export of metals such as aluminum is a key revenue generator for Russia,” he wrote. “This sanctions relief, in turn, may help buttress the Russian economy.”

President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortNo pardon for Trump Michael Cohen predicts people Trump pardoned may testify against him Roger Stone thanked Trump for pardon during exchange at West Palm Beach club MORE, reportedly offered Deripaska private briefings on the campaign during the 2016 election, something that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE’s team has reviewed.

Schumer argued in his letter that the Treasury Department should not ease sanctions on Deripaska’s companies before knowing the conclusions from Mueller’s investigation.

“Just days ago, it was revealed that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort provided Trump campaign polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a close associate of Mr. Deripaska,” Schumer wrote. “Mr. Deripaska’s deep financial and business ties to Paul Manafort are well documented. Federal court filings indicate that at one point Mr. Manafort owed Mr. Deripaska as much as $10 million.”