There’s more drama in Donald Trump’s cabinet.
Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, is likely to be confirmed today, despite the fact that he has unexplained ties to Russian oligarchs.
The Charlotte Observer reports that Ross has yet to respond to a letter from six Senate Democrats asking him to clarify his relationship to Russian oligarchs, particularly Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg is the second largest shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus, where Ross serves as vice chairman of the board of directors, and he also has ties to Vladimir Putin and a Russian oil company that is under partial sanction by the U.S. Treasury Department.
Senator Cory Booker also sent a follow-up letter last Friday, but, like his colleagues, he has not received a response.
Ross led a rescue of the Bank of Cyprus in 2014, an action that, according to a former Senate investigator, automatically raises red flags. She explained:
‘Cyprus banks have a long and painful history of laundering dirty money from Russians involved with corruption and criminality. Buying a Cyprus bank necessarily raises red flags about suspect deposits, high-risk clients and hidden activities.’
Despite these questionable ties, Ross is still expected to receive bipartisan support in his confirmation hearing today. Fifteen Senate Democrats and one independent senator even voted to advance Ross’s nomination to a final confirmation before the President’s Day recess, according to a report from Roll Call.
Although many members of the Senate are willing to push forward with Ross’s confirmation, other Americans are concerned about their seeming nonchalance.
Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said about the situation:
‘I think, basically, it has fallen through the cracks. I’m staggered by how this is getting through.’
Hauser also suggested that progressive members of the Senate have been distracted by the more obvious conflicts of other Trump cabinet nominees, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and EPA head Scott Pruitt.
Regardless of their reasons for not pressing Ross harder on his Russia ties, there have still been calls for the Senate to postpone his confirmation. Karl Frisch, executive director Allied Progress, said recently:
‘We need to know more. If Donald Trump is going to be entrusting this man to be sort of a trade envoy to the rest of the world, we need to know where he is compromised.’
Senator John Thune, chairman of the Commerce Committee, has made it clear that it’s very unlikely Ross’s Russia connection will impact his confirmation. Earlier this month, regarding the letter sent by Senate Democrats, Thune said:
‘I think it’s the environment we’re in. I don’t anticipate that it affects anything in terms of the votes.’
Ross’s confirmation is scheduled to take place around 7 p.m. Monday. If he is confirmed, Ross is expected to be heavily involved in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement and bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.
A senior fellow and trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Gary Hufbauer, told Fortune that he expects that Ross will “quickly become the [Trump] administration’s chief trade spokesman.”
Featured image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images.