Steven Mnuchin

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified after a group of Democrats in the House sent a letter implicating the Trump government's plan to lift the sanctions against three companies linked to a Russian oligarch. | Evan Vucci, file / photo Good Politic

Congress

The Treasury Secretary said "somewhat shocked" by remarks made following a briefing on the lifting of sanctions against three Russian companies.

By MARTIN MATISHAK

01/10/2019 19:31 EST

Democrats in the House on Thursday threw out Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin following a confidential briefing on the Trump government 's decision to ease the economic sanctions imposed on three companies related to the company. Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

"One of the worst classified briefings we have received from the Trump administration," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters. "The secretary has barely testified."

History continues below

She said that although legislators have received an assessment of the information, officials "spent most of their time reading an unclassified document … wasting Congress time".

Democrats in the House have called for the meeting after the US Treasury last month announced the lifting of sanctions against Rusal, one of the largest aluminum producers in the world, as well as the world's largest oil company. with En + Group, the holding company holding roughly half of Rusal, and EuroSibEnergo, a Russian company. Deripaska – an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of the many associates sanctioned last year for Moscow's interference in the 2016 presidential election – has a significant stake in the three companies.

Seven Democratic presidents of the House sent Mnoutchine a letter earlier this week in which he expressed his concern about the move, after Deripaska agreed to reduce his stake in the companies. Personal sanctions against Deripaska are still in effect.

The announcement of the lifting of sanctions against companies has put in place a 30-day review period so that lawmakers can decide whether to block the move or not.

"We'll see," replied Pelosi when asked if she would consider a disapproval resolution to block the lifting of the sanctions.

With sanctions to be lifted in the coming days, members said they asked Mnuchin and his team to extend the deadline.

"It is really unjustified to take quick action as the calendar unfolds, practically Christmas Eve, and expect Congress to act during the government's closure," said Democratic Representative Lloyd Doggett, member of Ways and Means House. Committee.

S addressing reporters after the meeting, Mnuchin promised to return "quickly" to lawmakers.

"We want to make sure that Congress has the time to do it," he said.

Mnuchin also stated that he was "somewhat shocked" by Pelosi's remarks, claiming that she had not remained throughout the session and that he had responded to half of the questions asked by the members and had technical experts at its disposal.

He pointed out that the December announcement was the "best judgment" of his department.

President Trump's press conference on the visit "data-size =" promo_xsmall_rectangle

"This is not a political motivation," said Mnuchin. "These companies were not chosen because they did bad things; these companies have been chosen because of their ownership and control and we try to separate them. "

However, it is unclear whether the new democratic majority in the House will ever be comfortable with the proposed step.

"I'm afraid this is only the visible part of the iceberg of lifting the sanctions regime," said the representative of Illinois, Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House's oversight committee.

The Connecticut representative, Jim Himes, who sits on the Financial Services and Intelligence Committees, told POLITICO that he "had not heard any clear reason to make this transition now."

In a statement, Adam Schiff, chairman of the intelligence committee of the House of Representatives, agreed that the session "had not resolved" his concerns about Deripaska and other Kremlin allies, who dominated sanctioned businesses.

"It will be up to Congress to keep up the pressure on the Treasury to explain its reversal and explain why Deripaska or its companies suddenly deserve to benefit from this relief," added Schiff, one of the seven presidents of Democratic House who sent the letter to Mnuchin.

Doggett, meanwhile, congratulated his colleagues for their participation in the confidential information meeting, one of the first concrete steps that the new majority has taken to oversee the White House.

"We are telling the Trump administration – and the Russians – that we are carefully examining every transaction with which you are involved," he said.

This article was tagged as:

Do you miss the last spoons? Sign up for POLITICO's Playbook and receive the latest news every morning – in your inbox.