Steven Mnuchin might have a shot at Treasury secretary, but his Wall Street pedigree makes him the type Donald Trump fans love to hate.
One theory bouncing between Manhattan and Beverly Hills holds that an investor with so much Wall Street blood in his veins spotted the trade of a lifetime. In exchange for a few months of unpaid work, Mnuchin gets a shot at joining President Trump’s cabinet. Goldman partners have wealth, and movie producers befriend stars, but the secretary of the Treasury gets his signature stamped on cash.
.. he sounds less like a political obsessive than an investor closing a deal he can’t quite discuss. “This was a unique moment in time where there’s a unique role for me,” he says. “It’s a unique moment in time,” he says again. “A unique opportunity to help.” But he will allow that the idea of a top Washington job appeals to him. “Yeah, it does,” he says. And for everyone on both coasts who still can’t believe Mnuchin has tied himself to Trump, he has an answer: “Nobody’s going to be like, ‘Well, why did he do this?’ if I end up in the administration.”
.. Mnuchin helped work out a deal with the party for Trump to essentially outsource much of the work of raising money, and in return the RNC would get to pocket millions collected in his name. It was a classic Trump move. After his companies went bankrupt following debt-fueled bonanzas in the 1980s, Trump became a maestro of sticking his brand on someone else’s products—condos, cuff links, colognes. Mnuchin arranged for him to do the same thing on a presidential scale.
.. Mnuchin’s counterpart at the RNC is Lew Eisenberg, his father’s old partner at Goldman Sachs. “I knew him when he was 10,” Eisenberg says
.. Mnuchin was born into a level of privilege that makes Trump’s deluxe childhood look ordinary. His grandfather, an attorney, co-founded a yacht club in the Hamptons, and his father, Robert, was a top Goldman Sachs trader who later became an art dealer. Mnuchin followed his father to Yale, where he lived in the old Taft Hotel with Eddie Lampert, now a billionaire investor, and Sam Chalabi, whose uncle, Ahmad, later ran the Iraqi National Congress.
.. In 2004, Mnuchin founded his own hedge fund, Dune Capital Management, named for a spot near his house in the Hamptons, and got hundreds of millions of dollars from Soros.
.. Mnuchin gathered some billionaire allies, including Soros and hedge fund manager John Paulson, and assembled a $1.6 billion bid to buy IndyMac. Mnuchin got an agreement that guaranteed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. would absorb almost all the loan losses after a certain threshold.
.. “He’s a guy that can recognize an opportunity and adapt to it,” he says. “He’s able to switch into different things.”
.. betting markets give Trump as much as a 28 percent chance of winning. Those are long odds in politics but not too shabby on Wall Street, and if his man makes it, Mnuchin could nab something priceless. All it costs him is a few months and some behind-the-back talk from friends who think he’s selling out to a demagogue.
.. “If you want to support Hillary and you haven’t been doing it for 15 to 25 years, probably dating back to Bill, you may be too late. In fact, at this point you are too late,” Sobel says. “Trump as a candidate didn’t exist two years ago. He doesn’t have the legacy organization that you had to endure and claw your way through. There’s no political machine.”
.. the foul-mouthed provocateur Steve Bannon ..
.. e has only pleasantries to share about Bannon, also a Goldman Sachs alumnus. Two days later, campaign Chairman Paul Manafort is gone.
.. He won’t go into details about how he met Trump. Nor what he thinks about the candidate insulting the parents of an American soldier killed in action. Mnuchin won’t say whether Goldman’s Hank Paulson was a good Treasury secretary.
.. Mnuchin surveyed the U-shaped table setup and decided Trump’s seat was too close to a wall. He convinced the country club staff that there was enough time to move the furniture about 2 feet.
.. At an August Trump fundraiser in the Hamptons, he encountered Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor whom Trump floated as a Treasury pick last year. “I hear the rumor is you will be secretary of the Treasury,” Icahn told Mnuchin. “And I will support you 100 percent on that! Because there’s no f—ing way I would ever do that.”