Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner Steven Mnuchin is Donald Trump’s choice to be the next U.S. Treasury secretary, a key cabinet decision as the president-elect assembles a team to fulfill his campaign pledge to boost the world’s largest economy.
Trump also plans to nominate billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as Commerce secretary, and an announcement on the selections may come as soon as Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel deliberations. Mnuchin, 53, would be the second Goldman Sachs alumnus with a key role in the incoming administration, following Stephen Bannon’s nod as chief strategist and senior counselor. If confirmed by the Senate, Mnuchin would become the third former Goldman Sachs executive to head the Treasury Department since the mid-1990s.
With the Mnuchin and Ross selections, Trump’s economic team is taking shape. As Treasury chief, Mnuchin would be a crucial player in carrying out Trump’s campaign pledges to quickly tackle some of the nation’s most contentious political and economic issues. Those include overhauling the tax code, reconsidering a deal that lifted some sanctions on Iran, renegotiating trade agreements to help American manufacturers and designating China a currency manipulator.
Trump earlier Tuesday picked former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to be transportation secretary, and Georgia Representative Tom Price, a leading critic of Obamacare, will be the nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services. The president-elect had dinner in New York Tuesday night with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a vocal Trump critic during the campaign but a candidate for secretary of state.
Earlier Tuesday, the president-elect met with Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn, and another person familiar with the transition said Trump and his aides are discussing what role Cohn might play, with potential jobs including other posts at the Treasury or at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. He also may be considered for the Federal Reserve, the person said.
Ross, 79, backed Romney’s presidential bid in 2012. He emerged as an advocate for Trump’s economic agenda when the real-estate developer was still seen as a long shot against Democrat Hillary Clinton, and denounced Romney for criticizing Trump.
The choice of Mnuchin, who served as national finance chairman in charge of fundraising for Trump’s winning White House run, illustrates the extent to which Trump is relying on Wall Street executives as he prepares to take office, even after decrying the influence of big banks during the campaign.
Little is known about the views of Mnuchin (pronounced ma-NOO-shin) regarding interest rates, fiscal policy, or whether he would continue the strong-dollar mantra of his predecessors.
Mnuchin, who spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs and later ran a hedge fund, comes from a pedigree of Wall Street elites: His father was on the management committee at Goldman Sachs before founding an art gallery on New York’s Upper East Side, while his brother Alan’s resume includes now-defunct financial companies Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos.
Inauguration Day is scheduled for Jan. 20, and hearings for cabinet-level positions like Treasury secretary typically occur in the weeks after the new president takes office. Given his Goldman Sachs roots and his dealings during the financial crisis, he may face sharp questioning during his Senate hearing.
The Mnuchin family pocketed about $3.2 million in fake profit from a fake account with convicted con man Bernard Madoff. It was money that didn’t have to be returned to victims because it had been removed before Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was exposed. The Treasury nominee himself profited from the housing market crash in 2008 when he and a group of investors bought a failed California mortgage lender and, after recapitalizing and renaming it, sold it for more than double the purchase price.