President Trump’s week-long defense of his relationship with Vladimir Putin and his redoubled efforts to excuse and enable his Russian patrons didn’t lose any steam as the weekend approached.
Late on Friday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin quietly announced that the Trump administration was considering the possibility of removing sanctions from an aluminum company, Rusal, which is owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
in April, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on Rusal and the seven other companies owned by Deripaska in response to the “malign activities” during the 2016 election – but they’re already floating the possibility of backing off on them.
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“The company has approached us on certain de-listing issues (from the Specially Designated Nationals List). I’m not going to go into the exact specifics of what those proposals are and where we stand on them, but, yes, if we can find an acceptable solution, that is our objective… Our objective is not to put Rusal out of business,” said Mnuchin to Reuters.
Deripaska is infamous for his patronage of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The Associated Press discovered that Manafort had previously signed a multiyear contract with Deripaska in 2006 to “advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin…at the highest levels of the U.S. government — the White House, Capitol Hill and the State Department.”
“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”
Manafort was promoted to Trump’s presidential campaign manager in April 2016 and resigned in August after it was discovered that Manafort received some $12.7 million dollars for his lobbying work for Ukrainian dictator and Putinist puppet Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed in the 2014 Euromaidan protests.
Deripaska returned to the news cycle a few months ago when his former mistress, Belarussian sex worker Anastasia “Nastya Rybka” Vashukevich, claimed she had incriminating recordings of the billionaire and offered them up in exchange for asylum in the United States and help in getting out of a Thai prison, where she is currently incarcerated for putting on a “sex seminar.”
For the Trump administration to conclude a week of antagonizing Americans and defending Russians with offers to lift sanctions from Deripaska is a clear sign that the President has no intention of ever holding Russia accountable for what happened in the 2016 election – and will put their interests over ours every single time.