Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declined to explain Wednesday why President Trump pulled the Treasury nomination of a former U.S. attorney who had supervised the prosecution of several of the president’s campaign advisers.
In an appearance before the Senate Finance Committee, Mnuchin refused to say why Trump withdrew the nomination of Jessie Liu to serve as Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes Tuesday night.
The decision came just two days before Liu’s confirmation hearing and shortly after Trump dismissed two government officials who testified during his impeachment before the House.
“I think you know nominations are at the president’s direction and we don’t comment … as a matter of policy when nominations are withdrawn, which happens for a variety of different reasons at different times,” Mnuchin said under questioning from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
The secretary added that he learned about Trump’s decision to pull Liu’s nomination two days ago.
Liu, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, oversaw the federal government’s cases against several top Trump campaign aides, including Roger Stone. Four career Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors resigned from Stone’s case Tuesday after the department overrode their suggested sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years in prison, telling the judge in the case that Stone should get “far less.”
Trump’s critics accused the president of canceling Liu’s nomination to prevent her from taking questions about the DOJ’s handling of the Stone case under oath during her Thursday confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.
“I would hope you would give an explanation that’s counter to the one everyone assumes, which is that she’s part of the president’s personal retribution tour,” said Brown, the top Democrat on the Banking panel.
Brown also condemned Trump’s withdrawal of Liu’s nomination and alleged retaliation against impeachment witnesses during a Banking Committee hearing Wednesday morning.
“If we say nothing, it will get worse. His behavior will get worse. The retribution tour will continue. We all know that,” Brown said.