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 MnuchinCharitable giving by individuals down in first year under Trump's tax law: study Charitable giving by individuals down in first year under Trump's tax law: study Congressional leaders, White House officials to meet Wednesday on spending 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 TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally MORE.

Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneHillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account New push to regulate self-driving cars faces tough road 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 CassidyOvernight Health Care: Poll finds most Americans misunderstand scope of 'Medicare for All' | Planned Parenthood chief readies for 2020 | Drugmakers' lawsuit ramps up fight with Trump Overnight Health Care: Poll finds most Americans misunderstand scope of 'Medicare for All' | Planned Parenthood chief readies for 2020 | Drugmakers' lawsuit ramps up fight with Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — All eyes on Trump as 2020 bid begins 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 CollinsOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission 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 SchumerDemocrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Ex-state senator in North Carolina enters race against Tillis 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 ManafortJustice Department intervenes, keeps Manafort from being sent to Rikers Island: report Justice Department intervenes, keeps Manafort from being sent to Rikers Island: report The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Supreme Court double jeopardy ruling could impact Manafort MORE, reportedly offered Deripaska private briefings on the campaign during the 2016 election, something that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate 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.”