Democrats Pressure Mnuchin on Sanctions Relief for Putin Ally

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is facing pressure from three key House committees for a fuller accounting of his decision to lift sanctions on three companies tied to Vladimir Putin ally Oleg Deripaska.

The Democratic chairs of the committees on Financial Services, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs asked Mnuchin for documents and records related to his decision to end sanctions on En+ Group Plc, United Co. Rusal and EuroSibEnergo JSC. The Treasury Department lifted sanctions on the companies on Sunday after an agreement reducing the Russian tycoon’s influence over the firms.

Mnuchin in December notified Congress of his plans, provoking criticism from Democrats who say the Trump administration has been too soft on Russia and hasn’t done enough to respond to Russia interference in favor of Trump in the 2016 election.

“Deripaska is a close associate of Russian President Putin with ties to President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who has been convicted of numerous serious financial crimes uncovered through Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” Maxine Waters, the Financial Services chairwoman; Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee; and Eliot Engel, chairman of Foreign Affairs, wrote in a letter to Mnuchin on Tuesday.

Mark Warner, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate banking committee, on Tuesday also asked Mnuchin for more information about the Deripaska decision, citing concerns that the billionaire will continue to exert influence over the three companies.

Congressional Democrats earlier this month tried to block Treasury’s action, but the legislation fell short of the 60 votes required in the Senate to advance.

The Democratic committee chairmen cited Manafort’s $20 million debt to Deripaska and concerns that Manafort “may have leveraged his position as campaign chairman to attempt to negotiate that debt in exchange for providing briefings to Deripaska related to the campaign.”

Though the financial restrictions on the three firms have been removed, Deripaska himself remains under U.S. sanctions.

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