Trump's move to ease Russian Federation sanctions survives Senate vote

Hugh Fox
January 19, 2019

The Treasury Department appears set to lift sanctions on three companies connected to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska despite concerns from lawmakers in both parties who say the Trump administration should be tougher on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies.

The House voted 362 to 53 in favour of the resolution which disapproves of a Trump administration decision to lift sanctions on three Russian companies after they agreed to sweeping restructuring to reduce the control of Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska.

But the result still represented a symbolic rebuke of the Treasury Department's decision in December to lift the sanctions on the companies tied to Deripaska, a Kremlin ally. "The companies will be subject to ongoing compliance and will face severe consequences if they fail to comply", Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in the department's news release.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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In the end, the measure fell just three votes short.

As with Mnuchin on the Russian Federation sanctions, visits from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis to Capitol Hill failed to convince many Republicans that they should stick with the administration's position on Yemen.

The resolution, brought to the floor by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), likely would have faced a Trump veto even if it advanced on Wednesday. "This vote was an irresponsible last-minute political stunt brought to the floor by Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi to try and use the Russian Federation narrative to score political points".

Congress has the power to reject any lessening of sanctions on Russian Federation, but only if it has enough votes.

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The rationale behind lifting sanctions is allegedly to ensure that only sanctioned individuals like Deripaska, and not the shareholders and employees of their companies, are punished by sanctions. On Wednesday, the department extended the sanctions against the companies - including one that's a producer of aluminum - through January 28. A similar effort failed on a procedural vote in the Senate.

President Donald Trump lost the support of 11 Senate Republicans on Tuesday after he tried to relax sanctions against Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Deripaska had ties with Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, documents have shown.

In 2017, Trump signed a bill granting Congress the power to halt the weakening of any sanctions on Russian Federation by his administration within 30 days of announcement. "I said there's not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here - conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC". John Boozman (Ark.), Susan Collins (Maine), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), John Kennedy (La.), Martha McSally (Ariz.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Ben Sasse (Neb.) - broke with their party and voted to advance the measure.

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