US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R) and National Economic Director Gary Cohn (L) participate in a news conference to discuss the tax reform...
MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Mnuchin eyes economic break for politically important Russian company

Just three months ago, the Trump administration agreed to significant sanctions against Russia over its “malign activities,” and among those targeted was billionaire Oleg Deripaska and Rusal, the aluminum company he runs. Two weeks ago, however, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration may be willing to back off.

It wasn’t idle speculation. Late last week, as Reuters reported, Mnuchin went a little further, signaling plans to “remove the world’s second biggest aluminum producer from a U.S. sanctions list.”

The Trump Administration may lift sanctions on a major Russian company founded by one of Vladimir Putin’s top allies.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin told reporters during G-20 meeting of Finance Ministers last week, that the department may remove sanctions on Rusal, an international aluminum company that controls an estimated 6 percent of the global market that has long been controlled by Oleg Deripaska.

The political context is a complicating factor – because if you watch The Rachel Maddow Show, you know Deripaska isn’t just some random figure in Russia.

On the contrary, as Mother Jonesreport noted, Deripaska, a close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been “implicated in suspected coordination between Moscow and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.”

Consider the hard-to-overlook connections between Deripaska and the man who led Donald Trump’s political operation during Russia’s election attack. It was last year that the Associated Press reported that Paul Manafort “secretly worked” for Deripaska “to advance” Putin’s interests, signing a $10 million annual contract.

Soon after, the public saw emails Manafort sent during his tenure as Trump’s campaign chair in which he appeared to link his job on Team Trump to his outstanding unsettled business matters with Deripaska.

And as Manafort’s multi-count criminal trial gets underway this week, the Trump administration has apparently decided now would be a good time to go easy on Deripaska’s aluminum company.