The White House’s new communications director has been in senators’ crosshairs

Two Democratic senators asked the Treasury Department earlier this year to investigate whether the White House’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, attempted to violate US sanctions on Russia.

Scaramucci is a cofounder of SkyBridge Capital, an investment firm that manages some $US12 billion. Bloomberg reported in January that Scaramucci met with Kirill Dmitriev to discuss possible joint investments between SkyBridge and Dmitriev’s firm, the Russian Direct Investment Fund — a $US10 billion state-run investment company.

“The idea was, many months ago, to have more outreach with Russia,” Scaramucci told Bloomberg at the time.

Scaramucci said in January that he would sell the firm in preparation for his role as White House director of engagement and intergovernmental affairs. That job ultimately fell through, though Scaramucci sold the hedge fund business.

Scaramucci was at the center of another recent firestorm involving a retracted CNN story, which falsely said that the Senate Intelligence Committee was scrutinizing him over the meeting. CNN apologised to Scaramucci.

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland first raised the issue of Scaramucci’s business dealings with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin during his confirmation hearing in January. Cardin asked about Scaramucci after Mnuchin said he was “100%” committed to upholding the sanctions against Russia.

In a letter to Mnuchin dated January 19, Cardin and fellow Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked him to investigate whether Scaramucci violated current US sanctions law in his contact with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), “and whether he may have facilitated, or otherwise promoted, prohibited transactions between the RDIF, or any other sanctioned entity.”

They also asked Mnuchin to examine whether Scaramucci or any other member of the Trump administration “has any financial interest in the RDIF,” and if Trump or anyone on the transition team was “aware of, directed, or approved Mr. Scaramucci’s contact with the RDIF.”

Mnuchin replied on January 30 that if confirmed he would “continue the Treasury Department’s history of taking reported sanctions violations seriously” and “assess whether further investigation of this matter is warranted.”

Warren requested an update on February 22, after Mnuchin was confirmed, asking him to follow through on his “commitment” to investigate Scaramucci.

Mnuchin does not yet appear to have issued a publicly available response. The Treasury Department didn’t respond to a request for comment.