Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is calling for an investigation into Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross after it was revealed that the Trump cabinet member had failed to clearly disclose that he shared business interests with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s family when he was being confirmed for his cabinet position earlier this year, according to leaked documents obtained by various news organizations including NBC News.
“Why do so many Trump associates have such trouble disclosing relationships with Russia?” Blumenthal tweeted Sunday about the new bombshell report.
“In concealing an ongoing financial relationship w/ Russian oligarchs, Sec. Ross misled me, Senate Commerce Committee & the American people,” he tweeted. “Inexcusable and intolerable. Americans are owed answers on this Cabinet’s troubling failure to disclose links to Russian interests.”
“With Wilbur Ross revelations, question must be asked – whose interests come first in this Administration? Only after a thorough investigation can Americans be sure Secretary Ross really has their best interests at heart.”
Why do so many Trump associates have such trouble disclosing relationships with Russia? https://t.co/VUChe0vcFt
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) November 5, 2017
German publication Süddeutsche Zeitung first obtained the leaked documents from Appleby, a Bermuda-based law firm, and worked together with The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a global network that won the Pulitzer Prize this year for its work on the Panama Papers, to investigate the 7-million documents. Some of the internal documents, which consist of emails, presentations and other electronic data, were then shared with NBC News.
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) November 5, 2017
The documents show that Ross retained a significant interest in Navigator Holdings, which was partially owned by his former investment company.
NBC News reports that one of Navigator’s most important business relationships is with a Russian energy firm controlled, in turn, by Putin’s son-in-law and other members of the Russian president’s inner circle.
NBC News adds:
Overall, the document leak provides a rare insight into the workings of the global offshore financial world, which is used by many of the world’s most powerful companies and government officials to legally avoid paying taxes and to conduct business away from public scrutiny. More than 120 politicians and royal rulers around the world are identified in the leak as having ties to offshore finance.
During his confirmation hearing, Ross vowed to cut ties with over 80 financial entities that he has interests in.
A Commerce Department spokesperson told NBC News in a statement that Ross has recused himself with transoceanic shipping and is in contact with ethics officials to “to ensure the highest ethical standards.”
“I am astonished and appalled because I feel misled,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. “Our committee was misled, the American people were misled by the concealment of those companies.”
Blumenthal said he will be calling for the inspector general of the Commerce Department to launch an investigation.
Additionally, The New York Times on Sunday reported that the documents also contain references to offshore interests held by Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.