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‘What Is Your Excuse?’: Maxine Waters Nails Mnuchin For Ignoring Russia Sanctions, Meeting With Russian Spies

Rep. Maxine Waters this week questioned President Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for missing a deadline to impose sanctions on Russia, as ordered by the U.S. Congress.

During Steve Mnuchin’s testimony before the Financial Stability Oversight Council, Waters asked if Mnuchin was troubled by the “curious timing” of a meeting between CIA director Pompeo and Russian spies.

“I’d first like to ask about the subject of my most recent letter, which is your department’s role in Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” Waters began.

“Congress passed this law on a broadly bipartisan basis, with the clear objective of punishing Russia for its brazen attack on our democracy. Mr. Secretary, do you believe our intelligence agencies, as they have said to us that Russia did hack into our DNC and undermine our democracy? Do you believe that to be true?

“I will broadly say I do believe in the intelligence assessment,” Mnuchin replied. “I want to refrain from comments specific that are classified. But yes… I broadly believe in the assessments.”

“Thank you,” Waters said, before asking: “Who’s responsible for delegating what was passed by an overwhelming majority of this House to the State Department?”

“The president was,” Mnuchin replied.

WATERS: So the president decided that, despite the fact that, in the law that we passed — delegated responsibility to Treasury, that — he decided that he wanted it be delegated to the State Department, rather than Treasury? And this is your excuse for not having implemented the law? Is that correct?

MNUCHIN: No, it’s not my excuse. And, again, I believe — but we would be happy to sit down with you and go through the details of this — the president had the authority to delegate within that as he chose fit. Again, the portion that you are referring to was delegated to the State Department. The other portion was delegated to us.

WATERS: But the final conclusion is that nothing has been done. There has been no waiver. That (ph) has been no delay. There’s not been anything that has been done. You did not waive or delay sanctions. That is the conclusion, whether we are talking about Treasury or the State Department. Is that correct? Nothing has been done on sanctions.

MNUCHIN: Again, there has been — on our side, there has been an enormous amount of work done. I want to commend the intel community. And there will be sanctions that come out as part of that. I can’t comment on the State Department’s part of the power (ph).

WATERS: Would you describe the enormous amount of work that the Treasury Department has done that you just alluded to? What have you done?

MNUCHIN: Again, I would encourage you to look at the classified report. It is — it is incredibly extensive. It is a work product of the intel and the Treasury, and that work product is now being used for the basis of developing sanctions.

WATERS: Are you telling me that, in your response to the overwhelming majority of this Congress having created law to impose sanctions on Russia that undermined our democracy — that your response is classified? Is that what you are telling me?

MNUCHIN: Again, what I’ve said is part of the report was unclassified; part of the report was classified. I assure you that, as it relates to the work being done at Treasury, there will be sanctions. And, again, there is a lot of ongoing work that is being done to develop those sanctions, and we complied with the law on time.

WATERS: The Congress of the United States does not know what you are doing. The Congress of the United States does not expect that your response to the public policy that was developed by us be somehow responded to in a classified way. Is there anything that you can tell us that you have done?

MNUCHIN: Well, again, the law called for both a classified portion of the report, and an unclassified. Given that the majority of the work was developed on a classified basis, we classified the report. I’d encourage you and other members to look at it.

It’s an extensive amount of work, again, that — the first phase was to develop the report and deliver it, which we did on time. And now we are developing sanctions on it. So I assure you we are very focused on this.

WATERS: Well, I would encourage you to encourage the president to declassify any information that should be forthcoming to this committee, just as he was able to do in the Nunes memo. He used his power of the president to declassify.

The Congresswoman then grilled Mnuchin on the controversial meeting between Trump’s CIA Director Mike Pompeo with Russian spies.

“Last week, it was reported that CIA Director Pompeo met with senior officials in Russia’s intelligence service, one of whom is subject to U.S. sanctions and the other of whom is subject to European sanctions,” Waters said.

“This meeting accorded just prior to the deadline for implementing sanctions on those engaged in significant transactions with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. These are the same sanctions that the president has refused to act on. ”

“Are you at all troubled by the curious timing of a meeting between Russian intelligence and U.S. intelligence, just days before the president failed to take action to implement sanctions pursuant to Section 231 of CAATSA?”

MNUCHIN: No, I’m not troubled. I believe that timing was just coincidental, and I believe there were various issues that the director wanted to discuss.

WATERS: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.

MNUCHIN: I said I am not troubled by that. I believe that the timing was coincidental and had nothing to do with the reports.

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