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 MnuchinBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken Trump at a pivotal crossroads on Iran Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't want war with Iran | Pentagon chief calls attack on Saudi oil facilities 'unprecedented' | Administration weighs response | 17th US service member killed in Afghanistan this year 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 NealTrump urges judge to deny New York's motion to dismiss state tax return lawsuit Ten notable Democrats who do not favor impeachment Trump probes threaten to overshadow Democrats' agenda MORE (D-Mass.) who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Democrats' impeachment message leads to plenty of head-scratching MORE (D-Calif.) who chairs the Financial Service Committee, Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine House chairman subpoenas Trump's Afghanistan negotiator Giuliani tears into Democrats after House opens probe into whether he pressured Ukraine to target Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff says Trump intel chief won't comply with subpoena over whistleblower Sunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate Schiff: Diplomacy with Iran 'only way out of this situation' MORE (D-Calif.) who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsMajority of voters say federal officials staying at Trump hotels is a conflict of interest The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? House committee launches investigation into Transportation Secretary Chao MORE (D-Md.) who chairs the Oversight and Reform Committee, Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonTop Democrat demands answers from CBP on security of biometric data Hillicon Valley: 8chan owner defends platform before Congress | Facebook launches dating feature | New York City sues T-Mobile | Top NSA cyber official names ransomware as 2020 threat | Blue Dog Dems urge action on election security 8chan owner defends platform in testimony before Congress 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.