Steven Mnuchin took a seat behind closed doors on Thursday as the first member of Trump’s cabinet to appear before the new Democratic House. But in an appearance where the treasury secretary was supposed to provide classified testimony on the decision to relax sanctions against Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, he provided no information—or really, any testimony. Instead, as Politico reports, Mnuchin insisted on reading from an already published unclassified memo that did not answer the questions put to him by representatives.
Nancy Pelosi: One of the worst classified briefings we’ve received from the Trump administration. The secretary barely testified.
The hearing came following a move by the Trump White House to push through a change to Russian sanctions in the final days of the lame-duck Republican Congress. Democrats were shocked, even as information was appearing on Paul Manafort meeting with Deripaska’s representatives during the 2016 campaign, and how Manafort was pressured into actions by debt he owed one of Putin’s inner circle. Rather than explain these actions, Pelosi said, Mnuchin spent his appearance “wasting the time” of members of Congress with off-topic readings and non-answers.
For his part, Mnuchin said he was “somewhat shocked” that Pelosi wasn’t pleased with his appearance, saying that he “answered half of the questions posed by members.” Half of the questions is apparently what Mnuchin considers a full day of work.
With the deadline for the removal of sanctions drawing near, Democrats have asked Trump to delay taking this action—but there has been no commitment from Mnuchin, or Trump, that they won’t open the taps for Deripaska’s companies.