Trump Taps Banking Executive & Veteran Secretary

WASHINGTON (CN) – The transition team for President-elect Donald Trump confirmed Tuesday rumors that he had tapped the wife of Sen. Mitch McConnell as transportation secretary. On the heels of that announcement, rumors swirled anew of the banking executive Trump will name Treasury secretary.

Elaine Chao served as secretary of labor under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009, making her the first Asian-American woman to work in a cabinet-level position.

An immigrant who came to the country when she was 8 years old, Chao also worked as deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation under President George H. W. Bush.

She married McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, in 1993.

Referring to news that leaked Tuesday morning about his wife’s appointment, McConnell joked to reporters about having heard rumors that Trump had an “outstanding” nominee in mind. Later praising Chao, McConnell said he is confident she will “do an outstanding job.”

Before serving in government Chao worked as CEO of United Way of America and director of the Peace Corps. She has been a fellow at the Heritage Foundation since leaving the Bush administration.

Chao will likely be heavily involved in Trump’s plan to increase spending on infrastructure, which has been one of the few proposals from the future president that has earned bipartisan support in Congress.

The bill will have to work its way through the chamber of Congress that her husband controls, presenting a conflict that is unusual but not without precedent.

Former Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole had to navigate the same issue when her husband Sen. Bob Dole served as Senate majority leader.

Chao praised Trump’s plan to invest in infrastructure in a joint statement with the president-elect Tuesday evening.

“The president-elect has outlined a clear vision to transform our country’s infrastructure, accelerate economic growth and productivity, and create good paying jobs across the country,” Chao said in the statement. “I am honored to be nominated by the president-elect to serve my beloved country as transportation secretary.”

Trump said Chao would bring fiscal responsibility to his efforts to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

“Secretary Chao’s extensive record of strong leadership and her expertise are invaluable assets in our mission to rebuild our infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner,” Trump said in the statement. “She has an amazing life story and has helped countless Americans in her public service career. I am pleased to nominate Elaine as secretary of the Department of Transportation.”

The New York Times also reported Tuesday that Trump is planning to select Wall Street alumnus and movie financier Steven Mnuchin as secretary of the Treasury Department.

Mnuchin served as finance chair on Trump’s campaign after spending 17 years at Goldman Sachs. He later founded a movie-financing company that put up the funds for hits like “X-Men” and “Avatar.”

Donning another cap, Mnuchin was also part of a group that bought failing mortgage company IndyMac and renamed it OneWest. The company quickly earned a reputation for aggressively foreclosing on homes and was the subject of a complaint from fair-housing groups that accused OneWest of not lending to minorities enough.

Mnuchin is the third former Goldman Sachs employee to hold the Treasury secretary job in the past two decades, following Robert Rubin and Hank Paulson, who served under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively.

Trump railed against special interests and the so-called global elite in his campaign, seemingly at odds with his choice to fill a key cabinet spot with a former member of a financial institution that has been used as a symbol of corporate greed since the financial crisis.

Trump even showed a picture of current Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein during a campaign ad as narration, accusing the “global power structure” of putting “money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations.”

The Trump transition team has not yet officially confirmed the appointment, but the New York Times reported an announcement could come as early as Wednesday.

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