Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s ‘Lego Batman’ Mention Raises Ethics Concerns

Steve Mnuchin
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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin may have been making a flippant comment about one of the movies he produced, but it has ethics watchdogs wondering if the Trump administration official violated federal rules prohibiting the promotion of products.

It stems from a Friday morning event sponsored by Axios, when Mnuchin, who had a career as a major financier of movies before being named Trump’s treasury secretary, was asked about his Hollywood output.

“Well, I’m not allowed to promote anything that I’m involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure that you’ve asked me the question and I am not promoting any product,” Mnuchin said. “But you should send all your kids to ‘Lego Batman.'”

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Mnuchin is one of the executive producers on the movie, which was financed by his RatPac-Dune Entertainment.

The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released a statement in which it said that “it’s clear that Mnuchin did not learn any lessons from the Kellyanne Conway affair. This kind of thing happened, and will continue to happen, when there is a White House that does not take disciplinary action for ethical lapses.”

Another organization, American Oversight, is calling for an investigation. It asked that the Treasury Department’s ethics official look into whether Mnuchin’s remarks violated federal law. The group also asked that the Office of Government Ethics monitor the Treasury Department’s probe.

But a spokesman for the Department of the Treasury said that “as his statement reflects, the Secretary clearly recognized that he generally may not promote private interests and specifically gave the legal disclosure that he was not promoting a movie, but answering a question he was asked directly.”

Conway, an adviser to Trump, was found to have violated ethics rules by the Office of Government Ethics for an appearance on “Fox & Friends” in which she urged viewers to buy Ivanka Trump’s product line. Her comments were in response to Nordstrom deciding to drop Trump’s line, citing poor sales.

Federal law bans federal employees from using their public office for private gain, and from using their title to endorse and “product, service or enterprise.”

As he was going through the confirmation process, Mnuchin said that he would divest his holdings in RatPac-Dune within 120 days of confirmation.

Richard Painter, professor at the University of Minnesota and chief ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, said that it didn’t matter that Mnuchin prefaced what he said by citing federal guidelines. “He stated the ethics rule (the same one Kellyanne Conway violated) and then immediately violated it,” Painter said.

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  1. Crystal Brooks says:

    Frankly…who cares? Neither this or Kellyanne Conway’s comments warrant this attention. It was clear she was acting in the moment. I think the rule is stupid. Nordstrom still pulled the product. Ivanka’s line is still doing well online. Why wouldn’t he recommend the movie? People aren’t swayed by this kind of stuff. They will either see the movie or won’t. In any event, he’s selling his interest. He clearly doesn’t need the money.

  2. Malcolm says:

    It serves to undermine LEGITIMATE and LARGE concerns over the behavior of Trump & co. if people get worked up over nonsense and minor things. Let flippant remarks be beneath anyone’s concern – this is clearly not as egregious or important as KAC and Nordstrom; and neither of those are as important as a thousand other things..

    • Jason says:

      ^^^^^This.

      Gutter journalism. This right wing oligarchy takeover needs true substantive reporting, not fluff. Mnuchin is a vile and dangerous figure and writing ridiculous articles like this will only fan the flames of the right wing lunatics that troll these comments. Take your job seriously Ted Johnson.

  3. 16miles says:

    The biggest losers continue to be the Liberal idiots who have gone out and turned all of the films he had a hand in financially in one fashion or another, into major blockbusters. Stupid hypocrits. Shows you how much they really know about where their box office dollars are going, which is nothing. Lol.

    • cadavra says:

      Oh, get real. Who in his right mind could have predicted that a Hollywood producer would end up as Secretary of the Treasury? After all, Trump hates Hollywood elites, right? Right?

    • The Truth says:

      No one’s laughing because you’re pathetically brain-dead.

      Mnuchin clearly acknowledged he was ethically prohibited from promoting his private interests. Then he said he was merely going to answer a posed question. But instead of answering the query appropriately, he blatantly plugged a movie he financed. This is a bald-faced violation of Office of Government Ethics rules, but the OGE has no real punitive power. It’s up to the President as leader of the Executive Branch to take action with regard to ethics violations by members of his branch. Trump did nothing when Kellyanne Conway violated ethics rules — Spicer said “she was counseled” whatever that means — and its unlikely Trump will do anything in Mnuchin’s case because Trump does not take ethics violations seriously, especially those with regards to conflicts of interest.

  4. Bas says:

    He is finished.

  5. Ruth Deutsch says:

    It certainly seems as if in the Trump administration (per Jimmy Durante) “everybody wants to get into the act” and with that we keep shaking our heads during the day in disbelief that so many appointees (and elected officials) are behaving like nincompoops, but then late at night we can turn on Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers and James Corden for ridiculously funny humor that we so desperately need to cope with our current government situation, to be able to sleep at night!

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