Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin might have made official decisions that could benefit his future personal pursuits, raising serious ethical questions. CREW is suing the Treasury and State Departments for records that would reveal more details about Mnuchin’s quiet lifting of sanctions on Israeli billionaire Daniel Gertler in the final days of the Trump administration, and if the decision was tied to Mnuchin’s post-administration pursuits.
Mnuchin’s secret decision to lift sanctions on Gertler was all the more suspect since just a few years prior, Mnuchin himself had placed sanctions on Gertler for extensive corruption tied to human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. President Biden quickly reinstated sanctions on Gertler after taking office.
By the end of Trump’s term, Gertler had been lobbying the administration to lift his sanctions for several years. At the same time, news of Mnuchin’s post-administration plans to establish an investment fund seeking investments from sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East raised questions about his extensive travel to the Middle East while in office. Though it is not certain that Mnuchin will seek funds from countries he routinely visited or from people like Gertler, any connection to his official actions would be deeply problematic. CREW filed a Freedom of Information Act request in March for communications between Gertler, the Treasury, and State Department but received no response.
The end of the Trump administration saw a flurry of last-minute grants of clemency to Trump allies and people with connections to them, and provided a clear view of the revolving door where appointees found opportunities to turn their political experience into private benefit. In the case of Steve Mnuchin, the public deserves to know to what extent he followed the president’s habit of exploiting his position of power to enrich himself.
May 6, 2021