Americans deserve to know whether last minute changes in Trump administration policy, including Trump Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s secret decision to lift sanctions on Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler, were influenced by Secretary Mnuchin’s future pursuits.
Steve Mnuchin’s frequent trips to the Middle East as Trump’s Treasury Secretary have attracted renewed scrutiny following news of his post-administration plans to establish an investment fund seeking investments from sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East. Additionally, in the Trump administration’s last days, Mnuchin through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) lifted the economic and financial sanctions imposed on Gertler in 2017 in response to his corrupt dealings in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gertler had spent the last four years lobbying the Trump administration to lift the sanctions, hiring lobbyists and lawyers like Alan Dershowitz who were closely associated with President Trump and using his high-powered connections to get his sanctions lifted. The decision to grant Gertler much of what he wanted came without warning or any sort of public announcement, and according to the New York Times, “stunned and angered American diplomats in Washington and Africa and government officials and human rights activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
On March 8, 2021, under the Biden administration, the Treasury Department, in consultation with the State Department, revoked the license issued to Gertler on January 15, 2021. The departments cited Gertler’s history of engaging in “extensive public corruption” and reaffirmed the United States commitment to standing with the DRC to counter “malign behavior that undermines the country’s institutions and economic opportunities.”
CREW has requested communications between Gertler and the Treasury and State Departments on Gertler’s sanctioned properties, companies, and properties.
This is not only another example of Trump and his allies using their political ties to issue last-minute grants of clemency to political and personal allies and people with connections to them, but also an example of the revolving door in the Trump administration, with appointees making political decisions that could benefit future personal pursuits. The timing between Mnuchin’s decision to lift the sanctions, his departure from the Trump administration, and the announcement of his new investment firm raises suspicion. While there is still uncertainty as to whether Mnuchin will seek funds from several of the countries he routinely visited and from people like Gertler, his planned investment fund, coming so soon after leaving office, raises concerns over whether Trump administration policy—including Mnuchin’s secret decision to lift Gertler’s sanctions—was influenced by Mnuchin’s future pursuits. The Biden administration’s decision to revoke the license issued to Gertler only adds to our concern that the lifting of the sanctions was improper and issued with questionable motives.