August 29, 2018

Warren Calls for Commerce Dept. Inspector General Investigation into Exemptions for President Trump's Aluminum and Steel Tariffs

Process Appears Arbitrary, Rigged and Fails to Protect National Security

Text of letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today called on the Department of Commerce Inspector General (IG) to open an investigation into the Department's implementation of the exemption process for President Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. Commerce officials claimed that the exemption process would be "fair and transparent." But an investigation by Senator Warren and additional public reporting have revealed the process is replete with mistakes and appears arbitrary, opaque and subject to political favoritism.

"Thousands of companies are seeking exemptions worth billions of dollars that affect manufacturing and investment decisions nationwide," wrote Senator Warren. "But this process appears to be running on an ad hoc basis, with little transparency, and bending to political pressure from well-connected lobbyists and Administration officials."

On August 7th, Senator Warren sent a ten-page letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross after she found that Rusal America Corporation, a subsidiary of a sanctioned Russian company controlled by Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian oligarch and a "close Putin confidant,'' had received an exemption from President Trump's aluminum tariffs. The day after she sent the letter, the Commerce Department reversed the exemption but still has not explained how a sanctioned Russian company got an exemption for millions of dollars of aluminum imports just days after President Trump met privately with President Putin in Helsinki.

Additional media reports have raised questions about political interference in the exemption process. United States Steel and Nucor - two of America's biggest steel manufacturers with deep ties to the Administration - have successfully objected to hundreds of exemption requests. And earlier this month, reports revealed that Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney was "trying to use his influence" to urge the Trump administration for an exemption for a company whose president contributed $5,400 to Mulvaney's 2016 congressional campaign.

Senator Warren asked the Commerce IG to conduct a thorough investigation of the Department's process for evaluating tariff exemption requests, including an analysis of the processes and procedures in place to make these decisions, whether Commerce officials are following these policies and procedures, and any credible evidence that tariff exemptions granted by the Department have strengthened the national security of the United States.