WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today asked Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin about whether he could guarantee that the Treasury Department would remain free from political influence from President Trump. Confronted by Menendez at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on President Trump’s FY2021 budget proposal, Mnuchin refused to make a commitment that he would not let President Trump pressure him into advancing his political agenda through sanctions.
Menendez: “Can you tell this Committee that the [Treasury] Department will conduct its actions, policy, and investigations – including sanctions – free from political pressure by the President?”
Mnuchin: “I will specifically say no. I oversee the sanctions department. Sanctions are driven by foreign policy. Foreign policy is directed by the President. So, no… specifically, I would say that sanctions, as are other foreign policy, are by direction of the President and executed through me.”
Menendez: “So political considerations will take place. I am not talking about policy considerations. I’m talking about political considerations that will take place in your enforcement of sanctions.”
Mnuchin: “Uh… I didn’t know you were differentiating the political from policy.”
Menendez: “Well, I think there’s a big difference.”