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Senate Confirms Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary

Variety logo Variety 2/14/2017 Alex Stedman
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The Senate officially confirmed hedge fund manager, former Goldman Sachs executive and Hollywood film financier Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary, despite strong objections from Democrats.

Mnuchin was sworn in as treasury secretary by Vice President Mike Pence on Monday night in the Oval Office. Mnuchin’s fiance, actress Louise Linton, was with him.

“Steven is a financial legend with an incredible track record of success,” Trump said. “I’ve watched this over the years. He’s been my friend of many, many years. Everything he’s touched he’s turned to gold.”

Mnuchin, in brief remarks, said, “I carry your economic vision and goals and am committed to working with you to enact policies to grow the economy and make better economic opportunities for all Americans.”

Mnuchin was confirmed in a 53-47 vote on Monday night, with all Republican senators voting for him and only one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voting yes.

Mnuchin will play a major role in shaping economy policy in the Trump administration. The Senate long debated over Mnuchin’s experience, with Democrats contending that he ran a “foreclosure machine” when he led OneWest Bank. They argued that Trump was breaking his promise to stand for American workers in backing the Wall Street-friendly Mnuchin.

“If Steven Mnuchin gets confirmed the banks are going to have the best friend they can have in the Treasury Department,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Trump, at Mnuchin’s swearing in ceremony, said that he would “help ensure that Wall Street plays by the rules. He will use his insights to get the best possible result, most importantly, for the American worker.”

Mnuchin had said that he would divest his private holdings if confirmed, including those of Ratpac Dune Entertainment Holdings. He said that he would divest within 120 days.

“With regard to those interests, I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that to my knowledge has a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of the entity until I have divested it,” he wrote, adding that the exception would be if he obtained a written waiver or qualified for a regulatory exemption.

Mnuchin also said that he would divest his interests in a number of other entities within 90 days, including Dune Entertainment Partners and Dune Capital Management.

Mnuchin has been a financier for a slew of movies, many at Warner Bros., including “Suicide Squad,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” He served as Trump’s campaign finance chairman.

During his confirmation hearings, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), questioned Mnuchin and suggested that he had had moved his hedge funds to the Cayman Islands to avoid paying taxes on profits from such investments as the movie “Avatar.” Mnuchin’s Dune Capital helped finance the movie.

But Mnuchin said that he “did not use a Cayman Islands entity in any case to avoid taxes for myself.” He said that the Cayman Island entities were set up “for non profits and pension funds who want to invest through offshore” means.

In a less divisive nomination, all 100 senators voted for David Shulkin to be veterans affairs secretary.

Mnuchin is the latest controversial cabinet pick to lead to long, heated debates on the Senate floor. Democrats fiercely opposed both education secretary Betsy DeVos and attorney general Jeff Sessions, with all Democrats voting against DeVos and only one Democrat, Manchin, voting for Sessions.

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