Despite the numerous investigations linking his election to collusion with Russia, despite Russia actively opposing the U.S. stance on the political instability in Venezuela, and despite a majority of Senators voting against the move, President Trump today directed the Treasury Department to lift American sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a key ally of President Vladimir Putin, according to a report in The New York Times.
The sanctions were originally imposed at the insistence of Congress last April after the poisoning of a former Russian military intelligence officer and his daughter in London with a deadly nerve agent traced back to Putin’s GRU, the successor to the KGB.
Deripaska and six other oligarchs and their companies were all targeted by the original sanctions which were delayed again and again from being implemented against Deripaska’s huge aluminum conglomerate, Rusal, as well as two other firms linked to the oligarch, including EN+, the holding company that owned much of Rusal.
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According to The Times, Deripaska’s companies “financed a sophisticated legal and lobbying campaign arguing that the sanctions would disrupt the aluminum market and damage companies in the United States and allied countries.”
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that it was leary of inflicting too much harm on Rusal, given the company’s key role as a worldwide aluminumsupplier, but merely wanted to “change the behavior” of Deripaska and his fellow oligarchs.
Last month, Mnuchin announced a deal to lift the sanctions if Deripaska would restructure the companies to reduce his personal ownership and control, but reporters discovered that a binding confidential document signed by both sides actually benefited the oligarch more than it sanctioned him by freeing him from responsibility for hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important asset, the holding company EN+.
One of the leading congressional critics of the deal, Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) slammed the administrations move as “just one more step in undermining the sanctions law, which President Trump has obstructed at every opportunity, while Russian aggression remains unabated.”
Anyone else wondering why President Trump has more regard for the wishes of a Russian billionaire oligarch than for the majority of America’s elected representatives — all while showing little to no regard for hundreds of thousands of federal workers who he just put through a month of hell?
Perhaps we will find out for sure when Special Counsel Robert Mueller issues his final report detailing the ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Or when the now Democratic-controlled House of Representatives subpoenas the translator from the secret private meetings between Putin and Trump.
In the meantime, enough evidence has already leaked to raise the common suspicion that the President of the United States has been actively working as the agent of a foreign power in direct violation of his oath of office. If that’s not an impeachable offense, then Bill Clinton’s lies about his sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky should have merited no worse a reaction amongst Republicans than a small traffic violation.
It shows that the danger in delaying the impeachment of Donald Trump may be greater than beginning it prematurely.
Please Special Counsel Mueller, get your team to work faster!
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Original reporting by Kenneth P. Vogel in The New York Times.