The last time Steve Mnuchin was on Capitol Hill, Maxine Waters reduced the Treasury Secretary nearly to tears.
It was painful to watch. But, let’s watch it again anyway.
That was on April 10. You almost felt sorry for Steve – almost. Laugh if you will, but Mnuchin is still the most credible high-level official in the Trump administration. That’s because, until recently, he was “right-of-green” on our proprietary administration “credible” continuum.
Steve isn’t a Kremlin agent, as far as anyone knows. He’s also not a criminal. And, outward appearances notwithstanding, he’s not a moron. So, “right-of-green”, it is. Every other administration official falls somewhere on that continuum. Larry Kudlow, for example, is a moron. Donald Trump is probably a Russian intelligence asset of some kind (if only inadvertently). John Bolton would be a war criminal if you’d just let him. Etc.
Unfortunately, Mnuchin’s extremely ill-advised move to fall on the tax return grenade for Trump and subsequent decision to defy a congressional subpoena means Steve is in danger of moving from “right-of-green” to “orange”, something he pretty clearly realizes.
The only saving grace is that, for now, William Barr’s Justice Department is covering for Treasury – Mnuchin’s refusal to hand over Trump’s tax returns to Richard Neal was based on consultations between the Treasury Department and the DoJ.
Well, during Wednesday’s encore before the House Financial Services Committee, Mnuchin patiently explained that he is indeed aware of the law, but, paradoxically, believes that Neal’s lawful request is unlawful.
As you can see, squaring that circle is only possible because of Barr. You’ll also note that Mnuchin employs the same logic when attempting to explain that despite being in clear violation of the law, he has not in fact done anything illegal, because when you’re in the Trump administration, illegal = legal, fence renovations = wall construction, lies = truth, down = up and black = white.
Mnuchin was also advised that his stance (again, predicated on Barr’s opinion) is not only unseemly, but entirely inconsistent with the actual structure of the US government.
Although lawmakers have generally run out of patience with Steve thanks to his role in the tax return coverup, you still get the sense that everyone begrudgingly views Mnuchin as more “Trump victim” than “Trump accomplice”. Rashida Tlaib (who is a lawyer) generously offered Mnuchin some pro bono legal advice on Wednesday:
Ultimately, Mnuchin acknowledged that the tax return fight is likely headed to the Supreme Court.
Oh well, at least things went better for Steve on Wednesday than they went for Ben Carson on Tuesday…