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Booker Urges Mnuchin to Provide More Information on Trump Administration’s Ties to Russian Oligarch

February 14, 2018
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WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) today pressed Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to provide more information on the Treasury Department’s recent report to Congress on senior Russian political figures and oligarchs, and their financial ties to President Trump and his administration. The report is required by a new bipartisan sanctions law, the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017, or CAATSA.


In a series of questions, Booker pressed Mnuchin to investigate members of the Trump administration’s financial exposure to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, who in 2008 paid Trump $95 million for his Palm Beach home. The sale was $30 million above known appraisals and was paid in an all-cash transaction through a shell company. Booker also requested information on why the Treasury Department only released the list of Russian oligarchs instead of imposing sanctions as mandated by law.


“Given the undisputed threat posed by Russia, it is in the public interest to identify and thoroughly examine any exposure members of the U.S. government might have had to individuals connected to the Russian regime, which may be subject to sanctions in the future,” Booker wrote.


“As a result, I was alarmed to see Dmitry Rybolovlev on this list, an individual who paid President Trump $95 million in 2008 for a Palm Beach home in the form of an all-cash transaction through a shell company. This was more than double what Mr. Trump paid for the property just four years earlier,”

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“Before Mr. Rybolovlev appeared on this list of Russian oligarchs, Democratic Senators submitted numerous requests for information from the Administration. These requests have been completely ignored,” Booker continued.


“Following U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment of Russia’s efforts to interfere in democratic institutions all over the world, the United States must pursue every available measure to counter the continuing threat Russia poses. I look forward to gaining a more complete understanding of the steps you have taken to ensure that Russia and its key operatives are not able to influence or undermine our democracy. I appreciate your attention to this matter and your timely response,” Booker concluded.  

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

February 14, 2018

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin

Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20220

Dear Secretary Mnuchin:


I write requesting more information regarding a report recently submitted to Congress identifying senior political figures and oligarchs in the Russian Federation as required by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Numerous individuals included on this list have previously conducted transactions with, or had financial ties to, President Trump and members of his Administration. Given the undisputed threat posed by Russia, it is in the public interest to identify and thoroughly examine any exposure members of the U.S. government might have had to individuals connected to the Russian regime, which may be subject to sanctions in the future.


In recent testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, you indicated that “[t]here will be sanctions that come out of this report.” CAATSA also requires that the Treasury Department assess the closeness of the relationship between the listed Russian political figures and oligarchs and Russian President Vladimir Putin or other members of the Russian ruling elite, as well as any “indices of corruption,” which may guide the application of future sanctions to these individuals.


As a result, I was alarmed to see Dmitry Rybolovlev on this list, an individual who paid President Trump $95 million in 2008 for a Palm Beach home in the form of an all-cash transaction through a shell company. This was more than double what Mr. Trump paid for the property just four years earlier. Mr. Rybolovlev is one of the wealthiest people in Russia, with a net worth estimated at the time of the sale to be $13 billion. He obtained his fortune primarily through his ownership of Uralkali, Russia’s largest producer of potash fertilizers. Mr. Rybolovlev has also held as much as a 10 percent stake in the Bank of Cyprus, where Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross was a shareholder and served as Vice Chair of the bank’s Board of Directors.

Before Mr. Rybolovlev appeared on this list of Russian oligarchs, Democratic Senators submitted numerous requests for information from the Administration. These requests have been completely ignored.

  • On February 16, 2017, six Democratic Senators sent a letter to Secretary Ross with a list of questions asking for details concerning his relationship with major Russian shareholders in the Bank of Cyprus.

  • On February 24, 2017, I sent a letter to Secretary Ross with questions regarding the full extent of connections or ties that may exist between the Trump Administration, the Trump presidential campaign, or the Trump Organization and the Bank of Cyprus, including Mr. Rybolovlev.

  • On March 10, 2017, five Democratic Senators sent a letter to Secretary Ross with further questions about possible links between the Russian government, the Bank of Cyprus, and the Trump business and political apparatus. The letter includes questions concerning whether the Bank of Cyprus was involved with any individuals or entities placed under U.S. financial sanctions while Secretary Ross served as Vice Chair.

In addition, questions have been raised regarding President Trump’s 2008 sale of the Palm Beach estate, also known as Maison de L’Amitie, to Mr. Rybolovlev for $95 million in cash through a shell company. These questions include whether the fact that the estate sold for $30 million above known appraisals at the time would have raised concerns that the sale qualified as a “covered transaction” under current guidelines regarding money laundering and illicit financial flows.

The appearance of Dmitry Rybolovlev, as well as another Bank of Cyprus shareholder, Viktor Vekselberg, on the list of Russian oligarchs mandated by CAATSA raises new questions related to still-unanswered requests from Democratic Senators. Accordingly, please provide answers to the following questions no later than March 1, 2018:

  1. Has the Treasury Department conducted an analysis regarding whether any members of the Administration, or businesses and assets owned by or affiliated with members of the Administration, have any financial exposure to Dmitry Rybolovlev?

  1. Has the Treasury Department conducted an analysis of the closeness of any relationship that may exist between Dmitry Rybolovlev and Russian President Vladimir Putin or other members of the Russian ruling elite?

  1. Is the Treasury Department planning on publicly issuing a more detailed report on the CAATSA-mandated list of senior Russian political figures and oligarchs beyond basic name identification?

  1. Why did you simply release a list of Russian oligarchs, instead of imposing sanctions as mandated by CAATSA? When do you expect to release a follow-up to this report?

  1. Is the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control considering adding Dmitry Rybolovlev to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN) as a result of his inclusion in the list of oligarchs mandated by CAATSA?

Following U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment of Russia’s efforts to interfere in democratic institutions all over the world, the United States must pursue every available measure to counter the continuing threat Russia poses. I look forward to gaining a more complete understanding of the steps you have taken to ensure that Russia and its key operatives are not able to influence or undermine our democracy. I appreciate your attention to this matter and your timely response.

Sincerely,

                                                        Cory A. Booker

                                                        United States Senator

 CC: Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State

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