Schumer: no sanctions relief for Russian oligarch until Mueller finishes investigation

Senate minority leader plans to force Tuesday votes on disapproval of Trump administration plan

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer plans to force votes to stop Treasury from easing sanctions again Russian companies. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer plans to force votes to stop Treasury from easing sanctions again Russian companies. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 14, 2019 at 6:25pm

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer plans to force votes Tuesday on an attempt to disapprove of sanctions relief against companies associated with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said Monday that there should be no sanctions relief for the companies, despite some structural changes to the ownership, until Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller finishes his work investigating Russian election interference in the U.S.

“It must not be forgotten, Mr. Derepaska is wrapped up in special counsel Mueller’s investigation, and has deep ties to former Trump campign chairman Paul Manafort,” Schumer said.

He introduced the joint resolution of disapproval somewhat protectively shortly after the 116th Congress convened in order to get the clock ticking on the effort to pass the measure using expedited procedures that would only require simple majority votes.

“Before the end of last year, the Trump administration moved to relax sanctions on three companies owned and controlled by sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska,” Schumer said. “As a reminder, an overwhelming majority of the last Congress supported additional sanctions on Russia, as a response to President Putin’s maligned activities, particularly in the Ukraine.”

The Treasury Department announced plan for sanctions relief for  En+ Group plc, UC Rusal plc and JSC EuroSibEnergo on December 19, with the changes to take effect 30 days later.

“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 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.”

Schumer said that he did not believe the changes the Russian companies were making would remove Deripaska from functional control, even as his ownership state is reduced to 45 percent.

“In my view, the Trump administration’s plan to provide sanctions relief to these companies is deeply flawed and wrong,” Schumer said. “It fails to sufficiently limit Mr. Derepaska’s control and influence in these companies.”

He also said on the floor that he was planning to send a “Dear Colleague” letter to every senator seeking their support for the votes to take up and pass his disapproval measure on Tuesday.