A Treasury Department spokesperson has admitted that its congressionally mandated list of Russian oligarchs was taken from a Forbes list of Russian billionaires, according to BuzzFeed News.
BuzzFeed News’ John Hudson reported Tuesday: “When asked if there is ‘any truth to the criticisms that the Treasury list was inspired or derived in some way from the Forbes list,’ a Treasury spokesperson said ‘yes.’”
The outlet quoted the unnamed spokesperson as saying that “[t]he names of and net worth of oligarchs in the unclassified version of the report were selected based on objective criteria drawn from publicly available sources.”
CNBC’s Natasha Turak reported Tuesday that the Treasury Department’s list was “strikingly similar” to the Forbes list.
While some of the report is classified, its public portion — the part that pulls from Forbes list of 200 richest Russian businessmen, as BuzzFeed News reported — is likely to anger legislators who wanted for more scrutiny, and consequences for election meddling, for Russia’s ruling class.
The oligarch list was mandated as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAASTA), passed with veto-proof congressional support, much to Trump’s frustration, to punish Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election. It also levied sanctions on North Korea and Iran.
The Trump administration clarified upon publishing the list that it was not announcing new sanctions on the names listed therein. And Monday’s deadline to implement new sanctions on Russia, in accordance with the same law, came and went without any new sanctions.
The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia’s upper house of Parliament said the list was “copied out the Kremlin phonebook,” per CNN’s translation.