Senate Democrats to force Russia-meddling showdown with sanctions vote

January 13, 2019 GMT

Senate Democrats will force a vote this week to overturn the Treasury Departments move to relax sanctions on companies connected to a Russian oligarch, pushing the various facets of the 2016 Russia election meddling probe back to the forefront.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced the decision early Sunday, saying there are too many questions about why the Treasury Department is cutting a break to three companies associated with Oleg Deripaska.

I have concluded that the Treasury Departments proposal is flawed and fails to sufficiently limit Oleg Deripaskas control and influence of these companies, and the Senate should move to block this misguided effort by the Trump Administration and keep these sanctions in place, the New York Democrat said in a statement.

He said the easing is a particular misfire given Mr. Deripaskas potential involvement with [former Trump campaign chairman] Paul Manafort.

Federal authorities say Manafort reported owing $10 million on a loan from Mr. Deripaska on a 2010 tax form.

The New York Times last week reported that Manafort attempted to pass polling data during the 2016 campaign to Mr. Deripaska. But The Times later issued a correction that it had identified the wrong oligarch and that Manafort instead had asked the information be sent to other oligarchs.

Whatever the facts, Democrats are eyeing a major dust-up and a chance to spend floor time blasting President Trump over allegations of election conspiracy with the Russians, along with the opportunity to make GOP lawmakers take a vote either defending or implicitly condemning the president.

Democrats are using a part of the law that gives Congress a 30-day window to review and attempt to block sanctions decisions.

That timeline means a vote must take place before Jan. 17.

Mr. Schumer started the clock running on Jan. 4, when he announced the introduction of a resolution of disapproval, but he said at the time he hadnt made a final decision about whether to pull the trigger.

The Treasury Department on Dec. 19 announced it was removing EN+ Group Plc, JSC EuroSibEnerg, and United Co. Rusal Plc from the U.S. sanctions list, saying it had negotiated an agreement to remove the companies from control of Mr. Dereipaska, who is seen to have close ties to the Kremlin.

Mr. Deripaska was put on the sanctions list in April, with the administration saying he appeared to be involved in corruption and money laundering and has said that he does not separate himself from the Russian state.