There are new developments in both the Vashukevich and Deripaska stories. Although there are common threads between these two stories, I will present them separately below since the new developments are separate events.
BTW — Much of the information below comes from segments of last night’s Rachel Maddow Show. Once again Rachel has done a fantastic job of covering those important stories that no one else seems to cover. So once again, hands clapping for Rachel!
Anastasia Vashukevich Appears in Russian Court —
I will start out with some background on this story for context. For those of you already familiar with the Vashukevich story, please feel free to skip to the new developments below.
Background — Anastasia Vashukevich is a young Belarusian model/escort whose claim to fame is she shot a video of Oleg Deripaska talking to other Russians about the upcoming 2016 US elections on an ocean-going yacht. She also claims to have other tapes of the men talking specifically about interfering in US elections and their ties to the Trump Campaign. For the last several months she has been in jail in Thailand on prostitution charges. All the while pleading with the US (Trump’s State Department) to intervene in her case so she can come to the US and provide US investigators with the information and videotapes she claims to have on the Trump/Russia case. But help never came (Gee, I wonder why Trump didn’t want to help her possibly bring incriminating evidence on him to the US?). So last week she was convicted of prostitution in a Thai court and sentenced to time served and deportation. Her friend told reporters that she was willing to go anywhere on earth, except to Russia (for obvious reasons). So she was put on a plane and told it would take her home to Belarus. She was also told the plane would have to make a stop in Moscow, but she was assured by “officials” that she would be allowed to proceed to Belarus. Well, guess what! Ms. Vashukevich was arrested when she got to Moscow. So Surprising! You can get more details from this NY Times Story.
New Developments — As you can see at the very beginning of this clip from Rachel’s show, there is a video of Vashukevich being arrested at the Moscow Airport. As you can see in the clip, she looks as though she has either been drugged or have been previously beaten as she struggles to avoid being restrained and arrested. Yesterday, she appeared in a Russian Court and there is also some video of that which appears at about 1:00 minute into Rachel’s segment. As you can see in the captioned translations, Anastasia is apologizing to Oleg Deripaska for taping his conversations about the Trump elections and Russian involvement. Likely in fear for her life, she promises him there will be no more tapes if she is allowed to go free and she will not upset him further. At about 13:45 minutes into Rachel’s segment there is another bombshell. Although the crimes upon which she is being charged have relatively short sentences if convicted (a few days), there is an audio recording of two Russian speaking lawyers (alleged lawyers for Oleg Deripaska) discussing ways of keeping Vashukevich in a Russian jail for a long, long time.
Before moving on to the Deripaska sanctions story, I will leave you to ponder these two questions:
1. Why during her several months in a Thai jail when Vashukevich made numerous pleas to the US government, both publicly through interviews with various Reporters and via a handwritten letter to the US Embassy in Thailand requesting help in getting her released in exchange for 16 minutes of videotape and other information she claimed to have regarding the Trump/Russia case, why did Trump’s State Department apparently do NOTHING to help her or even contact her?
2. If Vashukevich has no incriminating tapes of Deripaska and was simply making up the story to get out of a Thai jail, why is Deripaska and Putin’s government going to such great lengths to keep her from talking?
Model who said she had dirt on Russian oligarch walks freehttps://t.co/adzPKxXq9j
Anastasia Vashukevich, also known on social media as Nastya Rybka sits in a cage in the court room in …
— USA UK News (@trendsNewsday) January 22, 2019
Deripaska & US Treasury Secret Sanctions Deal —
As I did with the Vasuhkevich story above, I will start out with some background on this story for context. For those of you already familiar with the Deripaska sanctions story, please feel free to skip to the new developments below.
On December 19, 2018, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin reported to Congress, Treasury’s (Trump’s) intention to terminate sanctions on a Russian Aluminum Company predominantly owned by Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska is best buds with Putin and Paul Manafort owes him a lot of money and is scared to death of him. Keep in mind that Putin/Russia has done nothing in terms of ending their interference in our elections or mending relations with Ukraine to deserve the lifting of ANY sanctions.
According to the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, Congress has 30 days to act prevent Treasury from terminating these sanctions. This can be done by the passing a “Joint Resolution of Disapproval” Per the 2017 act:
“The term “joint resolution of disapproval” means only a joint resolution of either House of Congress”
Yes, either the Senate or the House can take up such a resolution.
The Act also says that:
“During the period of 30 calendar days provided for under subsection (b)(1), including any additional period as applicable under the exception provided in subsection (b)(2), a joint resolution of approval or joint resolution of disapproval may be introduced–
(A) in the House of Representatives, by the majority leader or the minority leader; and
(B) in the Senate, by the majority leader (or the majority leader’s designee) or the minority leader (or the minority leader’s designee).”
Yes, even Chuck Schumer can bring such a joint resolution and McConnell cannot block a vote on bringing it up for debate on the Senate Floor.
Also, it should be understood that this is a “resolution” and not a “Bill”, meaning it becomes effective upon Congressional passage and does not require a Presidential signature.
So last week, Schumer did bring up a joint resolution of disapproval with respect to the termination of the Deripaska sanctions and called for a vote on the Motion To Proceed to begin Senate debate on the resolution. According to the 2017 Act:
“The motion to proceed is not debatable.”
Therefore, it only requires a simple majority (51 votes) to pass.
The Motion To Proceed to debate on the resolution passed by a vote of 57 to 42, with 11 Republicans voting in favor with all the Democrats and Independents present (Gillibrand was absent). Here are the names of the 11 Republicans:
Boozman (R-AR), Collins (R-ME), Cotton (R-AR), Daines (R-MT), Gardner (R-CO), Hawley (R-MO), Kennedy (R-LA), McSally (R-AZ), Moran (R-KS), Rubio (R-FL), and Sasse (R-NE)
So 11 Republican Senators out of 53 had the courage to vote for this Resolution and against Trump/Putin/Russia. I’m not sure whether I should feel over- or under-whelmed.
Once on the Senate Floor, Schumer called for a Cloture Vote on I think January 16 to end debate and proceed to passage of the Resolution. The Cloture Vote was 57 “yes” to 42 “no”. Since 60 votes are required to end debate, the Cloture Vote FAILED. If you want to see a list of the 42 Trump/Putin/Russia Republicans you can go here.
Then on Thursday, January 17, the House also brought to the Floor a joint resolution of disapproval with respect to the termination of the Deripaska sanctions, presumably similar to the one which failed its Cloture Vote in the Senate. Get this, it passed in the House by a vote of 362 to 53 with 136 Republicans voting “yes” with Democrats. AMAZING!
However, since the Senate previously failed to pass the same Resolution because of 42 Russian loving Republicans (ncluding McConnell), the Resolution died and the 30 day clock on Congresses ability to stop the lifting of Deripaska sanctions ran out on January 19. If you are wondering who these 42 Senators are who care more about a Russian Oligarch than about the sanctity of US elections, you can see their names here.
New Developments — According to this NY Times Story, a CONFIDENTIAL document obtained by the Times and presumably NOT available to Congress at the time of their votes on the lifting of sanctions (above), shows that the deal struck between the US Treasury and Olig Deripaska’s Aluminum company regarding the lifting of sanctions on this Russian company was not as punitive on Deripaska as previously advertised. In fact, the confidential part of the deal relieves Deripaska of Hunrdreds of Millions of $$$$ of debt while at the same time leaving Deripaska and his friends with majority ownership in the Aluminum company, something Congress was told would NOT be part of the deal. As pointed out in this segment on Rachel’s Show, the document shows that Deripaska retains control of 45% of the company, his friends and relatives control 12%, and the Putin/Deripaska friendly Russian “VTB Bank” controls 24%. That means Deripaska directly/indirectly controls 81% of the Russian Aluminum Company, far above the minority stake that Treasury told the Congress.
Since Trump’s Treasury hid this confidential part of the deal from Congress and now the clock for Congress to block the lifting of sanctions has run out, what can be done?
That’s one of the questions I will leave you to ponder. Here are some more.
1. Should the House Oversight Committee require Mnuchin to testify and explain why he deceived Congress?
2. Should House Democrats try to pass a bill to impose new sanctions on Deripaska’s company based on the new information?
3. If the House passes a new sanctions Bill will it be blocked from getting a vote on the Senate Floor by Trump/Putin loving McConnell?
4. If it somehow gets to Trump’s desk, will he veto it?