Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could become the latest White House official to get the boot. President Donald Trump has been souring on Mnuchin for some time now and the continued decline in the stock markets could be the final straw, reports Bloomberg. One source told Bloomberg that the president has considered firing Mnuchin while another said that whether he stays on or not will depend in large part on what happens to the markets.
(Update at 3:48 p.m.: In a brief conversation with reporters from the Oval Office, Trump said he still has confidence in Mnuchin. “Yes I do,” Trump said when asked directly whether he had confidence in Mnuchin. “Very talented, very smart person.” He did use the opportunity to once again complain about the Federal Reserve: “They’re raising interest rates too fast.”)
If Trump was already not so happy with his Treasury secretary, what he did before Christmas Eve surely didn’t help things. Mnuchin rattled nervous markets over the weekend when he put out a statement saying the heads of the country’s six largest banks had told him they had “ample liquidity” to keep lending. Considering that was never seen as a serious concern many saw it either as a huge blunder or a sign that the government knows something the rest of the world doesn’t. He then held a call Monday with members of the President’s Working Group on financial markets, which also raised concern that the problems in the economy could be deeper than many thought.
That, in addition to Trump’s continued anger at Fed Chair Jerome Powell, combined to push the market even lower to the steepest Christmas Eve losses in decades. The Dow Jones industrial average, for example, plunged 653 points, or just under 3 percent in the shortened trading day. The benchmark S&P 500, meanwhile, dropped 2.7 percent.
As markets decline, “the president will continue looking for a scapegoat,” notes Bloomberg. Mnuchin and Mick Mulvaney, the incoming White House chief of staff, said the president knows he can’t fire Powell. That means Trump may be looking for someone else to take the blame. And if he looks toward Mnuchin there won’t be many in the White House who will stand up for him. “There are plenty of people inside the White House who are not fans of Mnuchin who are happy to throw him under the bus,” Stephen Myrow, managing partner at Beacon Policy Advisors in Washington and a former Treasury official, tells Bloomberg. “Up ’til now, he’s been protected by the fact that Trump liked him and he’s been a loyalist.”