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 MnuchinSenate Republicans call on DOJ to investigate Planned Parenthood loans The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December Republicans push for help for renewable energy, fossil fuel industries 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 NealHouse Democrats' bill would create a second round of direct coronavirus relief payments Lawmakers question why dead people are getting coronavirus checks Congress, Treasury tussle over IRS guidance on .2T COVID-19 package MORE (D-Mass.) who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersTop bank regulator announces abrupt resignation GOP pulls support from California House candidate over 'unacceptable' social media posts Bank regulator unveils new anti-redlining rules ahead of expected departure MORE (D-Calif.) who chairs the Financial Service Committee, Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse Democrats object to Trump sending ventilators to Russia House chairmen demand explanation on Trump's 'illegal' withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty Pompeo pushed officials to find way to justify B Saudi arms sale: CNN MORE (D-N.Y.) who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGrenell says intelligence community working to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts Democrats call for probe into ouster of State Dept. watchdog GOP lawmakers say they don't want to put Steve King back on committees MORE (D-Calif.) who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsThe Postal Service collapse that isn't happening House Democrat reintroduces bill to reduce lobbyist influence The Hill's Campaign Report: Amash moves toward Libertarian presidential bid MORE (D-Md.) who chairs the Oversight and Reform Committee, Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonFederal watchdog finds chemical facilities vulnerable to cyberattacks FEMA cancels million mask contract Overnight Health Care: Pence press secretary tests positive for coronavirus | Watchdog recommends ousted vaccine expert be temporarily reinstated | Health care industry loses 1.4 million jobs 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.