Senior Dem: Rejecting Russia sanctions waiver for Exxon Mobil 'a no-brainer'

Senior Dem: Rejecting Russia sanctions waiver for Exxon Mobil 'a no-brainer'
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Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said the Trump administration must not let Exxon Mobil Corp. resume a joint venture with Russia’s state-run oil company.

“This is a no-brainer,” he said in a statement Thursday. “The Administration’s answer to Exxon Mobil should be an unequivocal no.”

“Granting Exxon Mobil a waiver of Russia sanctions would play into Vladimir Putin’s hands,” the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs committee added. "[It would] deepen concerns about the Trump Administration’s cozy ties with Moscow.”

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Reports emerged Wednesday that Exxon Mobil is seeking a waiver from the administration to work with Russia’s state-owned oil company on a joint venture.

Exxon Mobil reportedly asked the Treasury Department in recent months if it could drill for oil alongside Rosneft.

The drilling would occur in the Black Sea, an area covered by sanctions implemented by the U.S. after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon Mobil's CEO in 2012, when the two companies struck an exploration and drilling deal worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Tillerson later received Russia’s Order of Friendship award from Putin following the venture’s announcement.

The State Department is one of the agencies that helps the Treasury Department decide whether it will grant a sanctions waiver.

Tillerson pledged to recuse himself from matters pertaining to Exxon Mobil during his first two years at the State Department.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on Exxon Mobil's waiver request, said it remains unclear if the company applied for the status before or after Tillerson’s confirmation.

Numerous senators questioned whether Tillerson’s business dealings in Russia made him too close with Putin during his confirmation hearings.