The House Intelligence Committee just announced a new Russia probe into the Trump administration

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A leading Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee just announced a new probe into Trump’s Treasury Secretary’s business relationship with a Russian-American oligarch.

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Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) is leading the charge to uncover the truth behind Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s partnership to produce Hollywood movies with Len Blavatnik, which lasted into the middle of 2017.

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The Treasury Secretary was Blavatnik’s partner in Rat-Pac-Dune Entertainment which was behind movies like Wonder Woman, though the oligarch reportedly bought out the Treasury Secretary for $25 million in mid-2017, though nobody really knows what happened.

Mnuchin’s recent decision to lift Russian election attack sanctions against a business partner of Blavatnik happened over explicit Democratic objections and a request for more time to publicly debate the issue. What’s left of Buzzfeed News reports:

“California Rep. Jackie Speier, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to Mnuchin last week seeking answers about a deal he reportedly made in 2017 with an associate of Oleg Deripaska, the billionaire aluminum magnate whose companies Treasury surprisingly announced it would be taking off the formal sanctions list in December.”

“In the letter, Speier wrote that she had ‘serious concerns’ about the alleged transaction, adding that it is ‘especially alarming’ given a recent New York Times report saying that Deripaska might have gotten a better deal with Treasury than has been publicly disclosed.”

Deripaska became personally sanctioned under the first major bill passed during the Trump administration because he was Paul Manafort’s conduit to the Kremlin during Putin’s 2016 election attack via his former interpreter and criminal co-conspirator Konstantin Kilimnik.

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Indeed, Mnuchin allowed Russian state-run enterprises and banks to buy up Deripaska’s position in his companies as a sham divestment transaction, which experts say means nothing has really changed because of America’s sanctions.

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Blavatnik’s investment into Deripaska’s companies is through a partnership named SUAL, which is co-owned by another sanctioned Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, who attended Trump’s inauguration and later hired his convicted former personal lawyer Michael Cohen as a lobbyist.

Following Rep. Speier’s announcement, the Chairs of the House Intel, Ways and Means, Finance and Foreign affairs committees released a joint statement decrying Mnuchin’s rush to lift sanctions against Oleg Deripaska’s companies and calling for legislative action. They wrote:

“We are deeply troubled by the decision of the Department of the Treasury to move forward with lifting sanctions against En+, Rusal, and EuroSibEnergo (ESE) – businesses tied to sanctioned Russian oligarch and close Putin ally Oleg Deripaska – before Congress had the opportunity to review the terms of this deal thoroughly, and despite a reasonable request for a brief delay.”

“Mr. Deripaska has a history of involvement with Moscow for malign purposes, and we have serious questions about whether the agreement reached between Treasury and Mr. Deripaska sufficiently divests him of resources for this ability.”

“Secretary Mnuchin had an opportunity to right that misstep by providing an extension for congressional review but chose nevertheless to move forward with delisting, despite clear concerns with the deal in the House and the Senate…”

The House voted overwhelmingly to maintain the sanctions until Deripaska fully divested his stake on several companies, but Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) led a group of 43 members of his Republican caucus to shoot down the resolution maintaining sanctions.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin isn’t the only Republican to take massive donations from Blavatnik, who emigrated from the Soviet Union to America in the late 70s, but now resides in London and holds dual US/UK citizenship.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC associated with Mitch McConnell and run by his former Chief of Staff, took in $3.5 million from Blavatnik from 2016-2017. A Super PAC supporting former House GOP Speaker whom Democrats swept out of office last month also benefitted from the Russian-American’s big dollar donations.

He donated a fortune to the doomed presidential campaigns of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and to the union-busting former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is best known lately for being a close associate of the convicted Russian spy Mariia Butina. Even soundly defeated presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), managed to pick up a giant check from Blavatnik.

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If that wasn’t enough, Special Counsel Mueller is also probing Mnuchin’s former business partner Blavatnik over his million dollar donation to the Trump Inaugural Committee.

Len Blavatnik dispatched a massive amount of money during the 2015-16 federal election cycle, a multiple of his donations in any prior two year period according to FEC records. Many of the checks came from his company Access Industries or one of its subsidiaries.

House Democrats have a large task ahead of themselves untangling the mess of shady business relationships between the Trump administration and Russia-linked donors.

Not only did Congressional Republicans give Mnuchin and Trump a two-year head start on getting away with their dirty deeds, but they’ve taken a boatload of cash themselves which raises the kind of questions they don’t want to be answered.

Rep. Speier is the perfect Congresswoman to untangle the cult of Trump’s involvement with the Russian-American billionaire because this isn’t her first Congressional investigation of cult behavior and she knows better than to drink the Kool-Aide that multi-million dollar donations don’t sway politicians.

Grant Stern

Editor at Large

Grant Stern is a columnist for the Washington Press. He's also mortgage broker, writer, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida.

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