House committee chiefs press Mnuchin for answers on sanctions relief for Russian oligarch

A group of Democrats leading seven powerful House committees are calling on the Trump administration to delay its decision to ease sanctions on businesses linked to a prominent Russian oligarch, while demanding further information about the move.

The seven chairmen requested on Tuesday that Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Democrats ramp up oversight efforts over 'opportunity zone' incentive White House to add two aides to lead impeachment messaging MORE brief lawmakers about the decision to terminate sanctions against three companies tied to Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire aluminum magnate with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The lawmakers argued in a letter to the Treasury chief that they have not been given sufficient time to review the sanctions decision before the government shutdown began. They asked for Mnuchin to fulfill this request by Friday.

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"The notification to Congress was delivered just prior to an adjournment for an extended recess and during which time a government shutdown ensued, which makes it difficult to complete our review of this matter within the 30-day period provided in CAATSA," the lawmakers wrote, referring to bipartisan legislation passed last year authorizing new sanctions on Russia.

"We request that you be available for a meeting with all interested Members, in an appropriate setting to allow for a full discussion of all aspects of the agreement, the sanctions termination and the impact these decisions would have on the U.S. effort to end Russia's malign activities aimed at our country," they continued, describing Deripaska as "a Russian oligarch who has abetted the Putin Regime's malign activity against the United States."

The lawmakers scrutinized Deripaska's current business ties connected to these three companies — Rusal, EN+ and EuroSibEnergo. While Deripaska has reduced his ownership stake in each of the companies to below 50 percent, the Democratic lawmakers expressed concerns about his stake in the company, pointing out that  he keeps "intact significant ownership of EN+."

They argued that they must have these questions resolved "in order to fully assess whether the U.S. agreement and the sanctions terminations are justified."

The lawmakers who signed onto the letter include Reps. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOn The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Democrats ramp up oversight efforts over 'opportunity zone' incentive MORE (D-Mass.) who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersDivides over China, fossil fuels threaten House deal to reboot Ex-Im Bank Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers unleash on Zuckerberg | House passes third election interference bill | Online extremism legislation advances in House | Google claims quantum computing breakthrough On The Money: Lawmakers hammer Zuckerberg over Facebook controversies | GOP chair expects another funding stopgap | Senate rejects Dem measure on SALT deduction cap workarounds MORE (D-Calif.) who chairs the Financial Service Committee, Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse Democrats pull subpoena for ex-Trump national security official House Democrats ask Mulvaney to testify in impeachment inquiry Republicans look to expand impeachment strategy amid release of transcripts MORE (D-N.Y.) who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Sunday shows — New impeachment phase dominates MORE (D-Calif.) who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsFormer NAACP president to run for Cummings's House seat Elijah Cummings's widow 'thinking carefully' about running for his old seat Trump's criminal justice reform record fraught with contradiction MORE (D-Md.) who chairs the Oversight and Reform Committee, Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonSenators urge Trump to fill vacancies at DHS Hillicon Valley: TikTok faces lawmaker anger over China ties | FCC formally approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Silicon Valley lawmakers introduce tough privacy bill | AT&T in M settlement with FTC Cyber officials tout reforms with one year to Election Day MORE (D-Miss.) who chairs the Homeland Security Committee.

The administration announced the plan to ease up sanctions on Deripaska's businesses in December, after they had been imposed in April under CAATSA, a law that was passed by Congress to punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. The decision came three days before the government entered a partial shutdown on Dec. 22.

Under the administration's current plan to ease sanctions on the businesses, Deripaska will remain sanctioned and his property blocked. 

“Treasury sanctioned these companies because of their ownership and control by sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, not for the conduct of the companies themselves,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement at the time.

“These companies have committed to significantly diminish Deripaska’s ownership and sever his control. The companies will be subject to ongoing compliance and will face severe consequences if they fail to comply,” he continued.