For a moment earlier today, it looked like the president of Goldman Sachs had entered the picture as a dark-horse candidate for Treasury. Turns out it was a false alarm. We’re getting a guy who merely worked at Goldman for 17 years instead.
He’ll join Steve Bannon, another former Goldman employee, in the highest ranks of Trump’s administration, less than two months after Trump delivered a stemwinder on the trail aimed at Clinton for colluding with “international banks.” Consider this swamp drained:
Mr. Mnuchin, 53, was the national finance chairman for Mr. Trump’s campaign. He began his career at Goldman Sachs, where he became a partner, before creating his own hedge fund, moving to the West Coast and entering the first rank of movie financiers by bankrolling hits like the “X-Men” franchise and “Avatar.”…
His selection fits uneasily with much of Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric attacking the financial industry. Mr. Trump, in a campaign ad intended as a closing argument, portrayed the chief executive of Goldman Sachs as the personification of a global elite that the ad said had “robbed our working class.”…
A number of Mr. Mnuchin’s friends made comments to various publications [in April] expressing shock at the decision [by Mnuchin to support Trump]. Mr. Mnuchin was unfazed.
“Nobody’s going to be, like, ‘Well, why did he do this?’ if I end up in the administration,” he told Bloomberg Businessweek in August.
Normally a job change from financing Hollywood entertainment to heading the U.S. Treasury Department would seem bizarre, but under Trump it makes sense. As we’re seeing in the Secretary of State selection process, his administration will be half policy, half drama. Mnuchin’s recruitment by Trump’s campaign earlier this year seems like something out of a movie too if this Bloomberg account is accurate. He’s not some hardcore Trumper or inner-circle crony who’s been onboard since the beginning. He’s going to be Secretary of the Treasury because he accepted a “last-minute invitation” at a moment when there was a huge vacuum on the finance side of Trump’s operation:
Then, on April 19, the day of the New York primary, Mnuchin’s life veered.
He was supposed to be at a dinner downtown, but after receiving a last-minute invitation to Donald Trump’s victory speech, he stopped by Trump Tower. Mnuchin—53, stiff bearing, stylish black glasses—was milling around, swallowing some Trump-brand wine, when the candidate swanned into view. The two had worked together on building deals years earlier. The billionaire beckoned his friend to follow him onto an escalator, and suddenly they were both onstage, Trump jabbing at the roaring crowd and bragging that the group assembled behind him included some of the world’s great businessmen. Mnuchin beamed. From where he stood, Trump’s iridescent hairdo was almost close enough to pat. He spotted a monitor, glimpsed his own face, and realized he was on TV.
Trump called him the next day and asked Mnuchin if he’d like to head the campaign’s finance team. It happened that quickly. You would think a man dedicated to economic populism would insist on recruiting a finance chair and would-be Treasury secretary from somewhere beyond Wall Street, or at least insisting on a thorough search before falling back on a Goldman veteran, but oh well. Erick Erickson noted this about Mnuchin last week: “Mnuchin collaborated with George Soros to buy IndyMac from the FDIC in 2008 for $1.5 billion. They then rebranded IndyMac as OneWest and structured the deal to receive reimbursements when they foreclosed on people who had loans with IndyMac. There are a lot of people who seem to think this incentivized foreclosures.” You might be reading about that, along with some Wall Street/Main Street bon mots, in the papers this week.
Watch the clip below from January of Trump telling a crowd at 1:30 that Ted Cruz was “totally controlled, lock, stock, and barrel” by Goldman Sachs and Citibank because he had made a loan to his campaign underwritten by a margin loan from Goldman and had an additional line of credit from Citibank. Cruz’s wife Heidi also worked for Goldman, a fact that Trump fans used against Cruz. Trump’s demagoguery over Cruz’s Goldman ties was effective enough that on the final day of Cruz’s campaign, when he was confronted by a few Trump voters on the morning of the primary in Indiana, one of them thought to heckle him by shouting, “Where’s your Goldman Sachs jacket at? We know your wife worked there.” Goldman was used as a byword for how Cruz, supposedly, would forever be beholden as president to the fatcat special interests who were bankrolling him. Quite in contrast to the supposedly independent billionaire Trump, who’s now conveniently staffing up with some of the supposed puppetmasters.
Bearing that in mind, after you watch the clip go read this new report about Trump’s inaugural committee auctioning off perks, including a dinner with Mike Pence, to rich people and corporations willing to spend six- or seven-figure sums to get on the new president’s good side. The package includes “Priority Booking at Premier Inaugural Hotel(s),” which may or may not involve Trump’s own International Hotel in Washington. I’d bet that it will; why would he pass on an obvious opportunity to profit from his election? I read all of this and keep thinking of Salena Zito’s already famous line that the media took Trump literally but not seriously during the campaign while his fans took him seriously but not literally. When he tells you he’s going to reduce the influence of wealthy special interests over government, including and especially the influence of banks, maybe try to take him a little more seriously.