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 Terner MnuchinFormer Sears holding company sues ex-CEO, Mnuchin and others over 'asset stripping' On The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost The Hill's Morning Report — Category 5 Mueller storm to hit today 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 John TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction MORE.

Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTelehealth is calling — will Congress pick up? GOP grows tired of being blindsided by Trump Hillicon Valley: Assange faces US charges after arrest | Trump says WikiLeaks 'not my thing' | Uber officially files to go public | Bezos challenges retail rivals on wages | Kremlin tightens its control over internet 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 CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyGOP senator issues stark warning to Republicans on health care Bipartisan senators offer bill to expand electric vehicle tax credit Menendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions 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 CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Collins backs having Mueller testify Graham says he's 'not interested' in Mueller testifying 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference Pelosi: Barr press briefing a 'staggering partisan effort' 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 ManafortNew normal: A president can freely interfere with investigations without going to jail Kremlin: No evidence of election interference in Mueller report Heavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered MORE, reportedly offered Deripaska private briefings on the campaign during the 2016 election, something that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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.”