Right out of the gate on Tuesday, it was obvious that today's grilling of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin by Maxine Waters and the House Financial Services Committee would lead to fireworks. Waters used her first question to ask Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin whether he would comply with a Democratic request for copies of six years of the president’s personal and business tax returns by Wednesday's deadline.
The answer, not surprisingly, was no: “I want to acknowledge we have received the request,” Mnuchin said, dancing around any solid commitment but repeating the jist of testimony he provided at another hearing earlier Tuesday. “As I said before, we will follow the law. We are reviewing it with our internal legal department and I would leave it at that.”
But while much of the hearing focused on Trump's taxes, and Mnuchin's repeated refusal to submit them, it wasn't until the end that tempers between the biggest financial brain in the Democrat controlled House, and the youngest partner in Goldman history, boiled over as the two sparred over Mnuchin’s effort to end his committee testimony to meet with a foreign dignitary, and not come back before the committee for another day of political grandstanding by Waters et al.
Initially, Waters complained that Mnuchin had made another engagement tonight, warning him that if he doesn't stay for the full hearing, she would compel him to return in May for multiple hearings. Then, after about three hours and 15 minutes of testimony, Mnuchin asked to leave the committee after Waters told Mnuchin that he was free to leave, but declined to end the hearing, where several members waited to question Mnuchin.
Waters had already criticized Mnuchin for scheduling a 5:30 p.m. meeting, which he said was with a senior member of the government of Bahrain, on the same day as an annual appearance before Congress.
"No other secretary has ever told us the day before that they were going to limit their time", the House's top financial expert said.
Then then escalated when Mnuchin at first said he would accept a request to come back and testify in May, then balked when Waters insisted he appear twice before the committee during that month. "This is a new way, this is a new day, this is a new chair, and I have the gavel,” Waters explained to Mnuchin, just in case he was unaware.
That, as the Washington Examiner notes, then led to an awkward stand off in which Mnuchin told Waters to end the hearing to avoid the appearances of him leaving while a hearing centered around his testimony continued.
At which point we got one of the most awkward phrases uttered in Maxine's vicinity: "I believe you’re supposed to take the gavel and bang it,” said an increasingly angry Mnuchin, adding that "you're ordering me to stay here .... that's not what I want to do."
In testy exchange, Rep. Maxine Waters tells Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, "no other secretary has ever told us the day before that they were going to limit their time."— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 9, 2019
"You're ordering me to stay here .... that's not what I want to do," Mnuchin says https://t.co/tFCpfQzXeL pic.twitter.com/H7je3oxk6G
At this point, the visibly flustered and flushed Steve Mnuchin erupted. "If you wish to keep me here so that I don't have my important meeting and continue to grill me, then we can do that. I will cancel my meeting and I will not be back here, I will be very clear, if that's the way you would like to have this relationship."
However, after briefly conferring with a legal advisor, Mnuchin then quickly changed his mind when got some good news, namely that he could finally escape the circus: "I've just been advised that I'm under no obligation to stay ... I've withdrawn my offer to voluntarily come back."
Waters response: "You may choose to do whatever you want."
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin after being asked to stay at hearing by Rep. Maxine Waters: "I've just been advised that I'm under no obligation to stay ... I've withdrawn my offer to voluntarily come back."— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 9, 2019
Waters: "You may choose to do whatever you want" https://t.co/tFCpfQzXeL pic.twitter.com/1ZCyGJPB6i
The good news: nobody was injured in the making of this circus: As WaPo's Erica Werner reports, the hearing "ends on a relatively amicable note with Waters thanking him for staying til 5:30 and Mnuchin saying he looks forward to returning. Mnuchin then pushed through crowd of reporters and has now sped off, presumably for meeting with Bahrain person."
And with that, we can't wait for tomorrow's pay-per-view interrogation of Jamie Dimon by both Maxine as well as AOC to begin.