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 MnuchinTrump considering meeting with China's Xi next month to finish trade deal U.S. farm exports expected to drop nearly billion amid US-China trade dispute Huawei CEO: Daughter's arrest was 'politically motivated' 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 TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE.

Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePolls: Hiking estate tax less popular than taxing mega wealth, income Will Trump sign the border deal? Here's what we know Key GOP senator pitches Trump: Funding deal a 'down payment' on wall 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 CassidyCongress must step up to protect Medicare home health care Ivanka Trump to meet with GOP senators to discuss paid family leave legislation Bipartisan senators ask industry for information on surprise medical bills 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 CollinsGraham: 'Handful' of GOP senators will vote to block Trump's emergency declaration Dems set up Tuesday vote to block Trump's emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report — Emergency declaration to test GOP loyalty to Trump 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 SchumerDon’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win 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 ManafortMueller won't deliver report to Justice Dept. next week New York preps state charges for Manafort in case of a Trump pardon: report Defending the First Amendment, even for Roger Stone 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.”