By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 17, 2017
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appears to have inaugurated a perpetual bring your wife to work day. It’s become so farcical that it frequently feels like the United States Treasury Department has morphed into a low-budget, badly scripted reality TV show where the female star is so out-of-touch that she must continually scurry about in her haute couture erasing the haughty things she has written about the little people on multiple continents. We’ll get to that shortly, but first some background:
It all started back on January 19 when actress and then fiancée Louise Linton sat by her man during his Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing to become U.S. Treasury Secretary. At the hearing, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon had this to say about his repugnance to see Mnuchin fill the post as U.S. Treasury Secretary:
“Mr. Mnuchin’s career began in trading the financial products that brought on the housing crash and the Great Recession. After nearly two decades at Goldman Sachs, he left in 2002 and joined a hedge fund. In 2004, he spun off a hedge fund of his own, Dune Capital. It was only a few lackluster years before Dune began to wind down its investments in 2008.
“In early 2009, Mr. Mnuchin led a group of investors that purchased a bank called IndyMac, renaming it OneWest. OneWest was truly unique. While Mr. Mnuchin was CEO, the bank proved it could put more vulnerable people on the street faster than just about anybody else around.
“While he was CEO, a OneWest vice president admitted in a court proceeding to ‘robo-signing’ upward of 750 foreclosure documents a week. She spent less than 30 seconds on each, and in fact, she had shortened her signature to speed the process along. Investigations found that the bank frequently mishandled documents and skipped over reviewing them. All it took to plunge families into the nightmare of potentially losing their homes was 30 seconds of sloppy paperwork and a few haphazard signatures.
“These kinds of tactics were in use between 2009 and 2014, a period during which the bank foreclosed on more than 35,000 homes. ‘Widow foreclosures’ on reverse mortgages – OneWest did more of those than anybody else. The bank defends its record on loan modifications, but it was found guilty of an illegal practice known as ‘dual tracking.’ One bank department tells homeowners to stop making payments so they can pursue modification, while another department presses on and hurtles them into foreclosure anyway.”
Before the confirmation hearing concluded, Senator Wyden added the following suggestion that Mnuchin had attempted to mislead the Committee in his financial disclosures:
“Mr. Mnuchin, a month ago you signed documents and an affidavit that omitted the Cayman Island fund, almost $100 million of real estate, six shell companies and a hedge fund in Anguilla. This was not self-corrected. The only reason it came to light was my staff found it and told you it had to be corrected.”
Other Democrats were equally repulsed by the vision of Mnuchin as U.S. Treasury Secretary prior to his confirmation to the post. In a press release, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley said:
“Donald Trump’s choice of Mnuchin is not only a fundamental betrayal of his promise to stand up to Wall Street — it is a punch in the gut to the thousands of American families who were thrown out of their homes by Mnuchin’s bank. The voices of these Americans should be heard loud and clear as the Senate examines his record and considers his nomination.”
Senator Bernie Sanders weighed in with this:
“During the campaign, President-elect Donald Trump told the American people that he was going to change Washington by taking on Wall Street. But now that the election is over, Donald Trump’s choice for Treasury Secretary is the same old, same old Wall Street insider who made a fortune during the financial crisis as millions lost their homes. If confirmed, Steve Mnuchin would be the third Treasury Secretary to come from Goldman Sachs in the last 17 years. That is not the type of change that Donald Trump promised to bring to Washington — that is hypocrisy at its worst. The last thing we need is another Treasury Secretary from Goldman Sachs and another broken promise from Donald Trump.”
Mnuchin was confirmed by a slim margin of votes in the Senate, 53-47, along party lines, with all Republicans voting for him and all Democrats voting against him, except for Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who voted yes.
Linton was also there peeking over the shoulder of her husband on May 18 of this year as Mnuchin faced a grilling from members of the Senate Banking Committee. During that hearing Mnuchin shredded the promise that the Trump administration had nurtured for months — that it was considering restoring the Glass-Steagall Act and breaking up the big banks on Wall Street. After Mnuchin attempted to say this had never been their position, Senator Elizabeth Warren called his testimony “bizarre,” “crazy,” and “like something straight out of George Orwell.”
Linton’s trips on official business with her husband went viral in August when she bragged in an Instagram post about her designer clothing as she disembarked with him from a U.S. chartered plane. Linton flaunted her #hermes, #valentino, #roulandmouret, and #tomfordsunnies attire. When a female reader responded in a post: “glad we could pay for your little getaway,” Linton berated her in a subsequent post for being “adorably out of touch,” and bragging about how much more in taxes Linton and her husband pay.
After effusive apologies over her indelicate diatribe and an erasure of the Instagram post, just three months later Linton has again become a viral meme on the Internet. This past Wednesday, Linton accompanied her husband on official business to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing as he inspected the first run of new $1 bills with his signature as U.S. Treasury Secretary. Linton got herself into photos from the event helping her husband hold an uncut sheet of money and bizarrely decked out in all black attire, including above the elbow black leather gloves and a black leather skirt. One Twitter commenter asked why she was dressed like Darth Vader while another suggested that she had become a cartoonish evil character.
The truth might be even more cynical. Despite stating on her official website that a “great life passion” is “the welfare of children and animals,” the very same web page says that she is now “the inaugural Brand Ambassador for British leather goods company, Dunmore with the launch of their handbag line, ‘The Linton Collection.’”
Last year, Linton was also lampooned for a preposterously inaccurate book she had written and self-published on Zambia. The book was titled In Congo’s Shadow: One Girl’s Perilous Journey to the Heart of Africa. Linton said that she was an 18-year old volunteer in Zambia in 1999.
After the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph printed an excerpt from the book, readers blasted it for publishing a grossly inaccurate account. The Daily Telegraph removed the content, apologized and said Linton had “announced that she had agreed to remove the book from sale and give the profits to charity, and issued an apology for the offence caused.”
The New York Times’ Tariro Mzezewa, a native of Zambia, cited the following passage from the book in a column:
“I witnessed random acts of violence, contracted malaria and had close encounters with lions, elephants, crocodiles and snakes. As monsoon season came and went, the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in neighboring Congo began to escalate and then spill over into Zambia with repercussions all along the lake.”
Mzezewa noted in the column that “Zambia doesn’t have a monsoon season. And the Hutu-Tutsi conflict happened in Rwanda.” He also called out an insulting passage where Linton writes about “a smiling gaptoothed child with H.I.V. whose greatest joy was to sit on my lap and drink a bottle of Coca-Cola.” In another passage, he says Linton actually calls herself “angel haired” in the book.
Mnuchin and his permanent sidekick in the job are emblematic of the hubris of the Trump administration. Mnuchin had never previously held public office. Trump nominated Mnuchin for the post of U.S. Treasury Secretary not because of his sterling credentials but because Mnuchin had helped to raise millions of dollars for Trump as his Campaign Finance Chairman.
Next to the President of the United States and the Federal Reserve Chairman, the U.S. Treasury Secretary is considered one of the most critical jobs in Washington. The Treasury is not some nebulous, do-nothing agency. Its bureaus include the IRS; the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency which supervises and inspects national banks for safety and soundness; the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the U.S. Mint that issue the currency and coin of the United States.; the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network which is supposed to combat money laundering; and numerous other units. The Treasury Secretary not only sits at the helm of the Treasury Department but since the passage of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, the Treasury Secretary now chairs the Financial Stability Oversight Council which is responsible for preventing another epic financial implosion like that of 2008. The Treasury Secretary also serves as the Managing Trustee of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds and has one of three votes, along with the Secretaries of Commerce and Labor, on the federal corporate pension guarantor, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
The Mnuchins continue to disgrace the U.S. Treasury and it’s important to remember that 100 percent of Senate Republicans put him in that job despite what their Democratic colleagues testified was his history as a foreclosure king – even foreclosing on active duty military men and women.