Mnuchin promises more sanctions on Russia after outrage over report
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday the Trump administration will impose financial sanctions on dozens of wealthy Russians despite the president declining a congressional deadline to do so.
Mnuchin took heat from Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee over the administration’s decision to not impose sanctions by a Monday deadline.
“This should in no way be interpreted as we’re not putting sanctions on anyone in that report,” Mnuchin said at a hearing.
He added that the report issued Monday on suspected financiers of Russian government political efforts is not a substitute for financial restrictions Congress mandated in a bill passed last year.
Trump announced Monday night that the current regiment of financial sanctions on Russia was doing enough to deter the country’s unstabilizing political and military actions, declining to add others.
Democrats excoriated Trump, whose campaign is the subject of a special counsel investigation over possible collusion with Russia, for declining to follow Congress’ directive. Some Republicans also expressed concerns about the lack of new sanctions.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) pressed Mnuchin on the lack of additional sanctions, asking him whether he agreed with the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Mnuchin, who served as Trump’s campaign finance chairman, said he wouldn’t dispute the findings.
Mnuchin also shared a heated exchange with Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) over whether the list would actually lead to sanctions. Mnuchin claimed the lack of sanctions on the listed Russians was not a delay as Schatz insisted it was.
“There will be sanctions that come out of this report,” Mnuchin said, saying they could be issued within two or three months.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Mnuchin he hopes the administration issues new sanctions soon, and said in a statement that “it is clear the administration is working in good faith, and I am committed to applying pressure, as needed, to ensure further implementation.”
And Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told Mnuchin he feared the consequences of not cracking down harder on Putin, insisting the U.S. should “hit him [with sanctions] until he’s coughing up bones.”
“It’s not getting any better, Mr. Secretary,” Kennedy said. “I really think we’re sending the wrong message with this critical challenge.”
The 2017 legislation allows Trump to postpone imposing sanctions on people or entities if he determines they are largely scaling back their transactions with Russia’s defense or intelligence sectors, as long as he notifies the appropriate congressional committees at least every 180 days that the administration is seeing such progress.
The Treasury Department released a list of Russian business and political figures as part of the legislation meant to punish Moscow for election meddling, including senior members of the Kremlin.
The list includes 114 senior political figures with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs with a net worth of or more than $1 billion. Even so, the administration clarified the report was not meant to be a “sanctions list.”
The oligarch list was widely criticized and even mocked by senators for its overlap with the Forbes list of wealthiest Russian businessmen. A Treasury Department spokesman told Buzzfeed that the Forbes ranking was one of several public sources of information used by the department.
The administration also issued a classified report on Russian sanctions to Congress.
–Updated at 1:25 p.m.