Politics

Mnuchin Chides Yale Classmates in Full-Throated Defense of Trump

Treasury secretary says 'president deserves the opportunity to propose his agenda' without distractions

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offered a scathing response to his former Yale classmates’ asking him to resign from President Donald Trump’s administration in the aftermath of the Charlottesville tragedy Saturday evening, saying that Trump “deserves the opportunity to propose his agenda” without attempts to “distract” the American people.

Nearly 300 of Mnuchin’s fellow Yale Class of 1985 alumni signed a letter Friday in which they called upon Mnuchin “as our friend, our classmate, and as a fellow American, to resign in protest of President Trump’s support of Nazism and white supremacy.” The Yale alumni urged Mnuchin to follow in the footsteps of the business CEOs who resigned from Trump’s advisory councils during the fallout from his Charlottesville remarks. The president dissolved two of the advisory councils as the resignations piled up.

“We know you are better than this, and we are counting on you to do the right thing,” the alumni wrote to Mnuchin.

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The Yale alumni took issue with Trump’s response to the violence that occurred at the Aug. 12 Charlottesville rally, which left one woman dead when white nationalists clashed with far-left counter-protesters. Although Trump specifically condemned the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists and neo-Nazis by name for their racism and violence, he also insisted that “both sides” were to blame for the violence.

In response to his former classmates’ letter, Mnuchin unleashed a scathing statement Saturday evening in which he refused to step down and defended both Trump and his own role in the president’s administration.

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“Our President deserves the opportunity to propose his agenda and to do so without the attempts by those who opposed him in the primaries, in the general election, and beyond to distract the administration and the American people from these most important policy issues — jobs, economic growth and national security,” Mnuchin wrote.

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The Treasury secretary insisted that he will follow through on the opportunity he has been given “to simplify regulations, reform taxes, and generate millions of jobs through higher growth” as part of the president’s agenda.

“First, I am proud to serve my country as the 77th Treasury Secretary at this critical time in our history, and I do so with a goal of taking actions to improve the economy for the benefit of all of our citizens,” Mnuchin explained, adding that he would continue “to pursue [Trump’s] agenda.”

Mnuchin also took the opportunity to comment on the “recent, horrible events in Charlottesville,” saying, “I strongly condemn the actions of those filled with hate and with the intent to harm others.”

“They have no defense from me, nor do they have any defense from the president or this administration,” Mnuchin said as he reminded his Yale classmates of the president’s own words: “[W]e all must be united and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one.”

Mnuchin, who is Jewish, informed his Yale classmates that “I believe I understand the long history of violence and hatred against the Jews (and other minorities) and circumstances that give rise to these sentiments and actions.”

“While I find it hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or the President, I feel compelled to let you know that the President in no way, shape or form, believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways,” Mnuchin added.

Noting that he, as a Yale alumnus, was “a member of what used to be known as Calhoun College (prior to its name change),” Mnuchin said he is “familiar with the culture wars being fought in our country” as people debate “how history should be remembered.”

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Yale’s Calhoun College, renamed the Hopper College, was originally named after John C. Calhoun, a former vice president and 1804 Yale graduate who advocated for slavery. Many of the white nationalists who attended the Charlottesville rally said that they were there to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate hero Robert E. Lee.

“Some of these issues are far more complicated than we are led to believe by the mass media, and if it were so simple, such actions would have been taken by other presidents, governors, and mayors, long before President Trump was elected by the American people,” Mnuchin wrote.

In conclusion, Mnuchin wrote that he hoped his Yale colleagues now have “a better perspective” about where Mnuchin is coming from and why he will continue to serve in his role as Treasury secretary.

“I don’t believe the allegations against the President are accurate, and I believe that having highly talented men and women in our country surrounding the president in his administration should be reassuring to you and all the American people,” Mnuchin said. “As long as I am Treasury Secretary, I will do the best job I can for the American people and provide the best advice I can to the President.”

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