Treasury poised to ease sanctions tied to Russian oligarch

Treasury poised to ease sanctions tied to Russian oligarch

They voted to stand up against Russian President Vladimir Putin - and this time, anyway, against the Trump administration's reflexively pro-Putin, pro-Russia lifting of sanctions against companies tied to a key Putin ally, Oleg Deripaska. The House vote comes after a parallel measure narrowly failed in the Republican-controlled Senate, where 11 Republicans crossed party lines to join Democrats.

The vote was 57-42, but it needed 60 yeas to end debate, and so fell short.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters he would call Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday and ask him to delay implementation of the decision until February 28.

Mnuchin has said that Deripaska, not the companies, was the intended target of US sanctions imposed in April on associates of Putin over Moscow's interference in the election. Deripaska has deep ties to Vladimir Putin and was among those sanctioned a year ago in response to Russian aggression and attempts to interfere in our elections.

But the Trump administration has been pushing Republican lawmakers hard not to support the resolution of disapproval of the decision to ease the sanctions, which were introduced by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

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While sanctions against Deripaska as an individual will remain, the Treasury opted to remove restrictions on the companies following an agreement to significantly reduce the oligarch's ownership. Mueller's team has delved deeply into Manafort's years of work in the eastern European country as it investigated possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian Federation in the 2016 election.

Court documents last year showed that Deripaska has had financial dealings with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted last year of tax and bank fraud. In seeking to lift the sanctions, top Trump administration officials argued that Deripaska had sufficiently divested control of the firms and that keeping the penalties in place for Deripaska-linked aluminum producing companies would benefit other aluminum companies based in China and elsewhere.

Rusal is the world's largest aluminium producer outside China. Susan Collins of ME, one of the Republicans who voted with Democrats, said after the first vote. "I felt like he would continue to have control, and this is a bad guy", the Republican from Rogers said. Speaking after the Senate meeting, he said the sanctions "shouldn't be a political issue".

"Lifting sanctions from companies heavily influenced by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska would send a message that the United States is tolerant of worldwide malignance", he said. The House will likely vote on a similar resolution Thursday, but it will be purely symbolic following the Senate's action Wednesday. "It is imperative our nation maintains a strong stance on Russia's global economic activity; therefore, I voted not to lift these sanctions, against the recommendation of Secretary Mnuchin".

Manafort is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to conspiracy against the United States.

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