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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: I don't have any investments in Russia and never have

CNBC logo CNBC 6/21/2018 Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday that he doesn't have any investments in Russia and never has.

Forbes.com published a story earlier this week detailing the fact that Ross while Commerce secretary, and then his family members, held financial positions in companies that could be affected by U.S. trade decisions in which he is involved. Ross and the Commerce Department have denied any wrongdoing.

"What they are doing is innuendo," Ross said Thursday in an interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box." "The company that I was invested in happened to have a Russian shareholder. Another company happened to do business with some companies in Russia."

"They take little, tiny things and turn them into something they are not," he added. "To make an allegation that there is something inappropriate about a practice, that's a very commonplace practice and has been done in prior administrations as well, is simply silly."

Separately, Ross was criticized on Wednesday by both Senate Republicans and Democrats over what they called a confusing and damaging Trump administration process of imposing tariffs. Ross defended the administration's actions, saying he believes they will deter allegedly unfair trade practices that Trump pledged to end.

The Commerce Department under Ross recommended imposing heavy tariffs or quotas on foreign producers of steel and aluminum in February in the interest of national security. Ross said at the time that steel is important to U.S. national security and that current import flows are adversely affecting the steel industry.

—CNBC's Jacob Pramuk and Dan Mangan contributed to this report.

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