Trump to nominate Mnuchin as Treasury secretary, Ross as Commerce secretary

Treasury secretary pick Steve Mnuchin: We can sustain 3-4% economic growth
Treasury secretary pick Steve Mnuchin: We can sustain 3-4% economic growth

President-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday he intends to name Steven Mnuchin as his Treasury secretary, adding both a key campaign figure and a Wall Street veteran to his administration. Trump also intends to nominate billionaire Wilbur Ross as secretary of Commerce.

"Steve Mnuchin is a world-class financier, banker and businessman, and has played a key role in developing our plan to build a dynamic, booming economy that will create millions of jobs," Trump said in a statement Wednesday. "His expertise and pro-growth ideas make him the ideal candidate to serve as Secretary of the Treasury. He purchased IndyMac Bank for $1.6 billion and ran it very professionally, selling it for $3.4 billion plus a return of capital. That's the kind of people I want in my administration representing our country."

Mnuchin, who served as finance chairman for Trump's presidential campaign, was last the chairman of Dune Capital Management. Mnuchin's firm's Hollywood financing has helped to fund James Cameron's "Avatar," among other blockbusters. He previously spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs, worked at Soros Fund Management and co-founded OneWest Bank Group.

The appointment of Mnuchin, an alumnus of one of the world's most powerful financial institutions, seems to clash with Trump's populist campaign rhetoric and pledge to be the "voice" for downtrodden blue-collar workers. Mnuchin would take the helm of a treasury that could take a starkly different approach than the department did under the Obama administration on taxes, trade and financial regulation.

It is not entirely clear how much Mnuchin's personal views align with the financial priorities Trump has outlined for his United States. Mnuchin, like Trump, donated heavily to Democratic candidates before this cycle. Like Trump, his economic standing has little in common with the economic populism that helped to propel Trump to the White House.

Advisor Steven Mnuchin arrives at the Trump Tower for meetings with US President-elect Donald Trump, in New York on November 17, 2016.
Eduardo Munoz | AFP | Getty Images

While serving as campaign finance chairman, Mnuchin also outlined some of the economic priorities of a possible Trump administration.

"We are very focused on lowering business taxes, making sure that U.S. corporations are competitive around the world, bringing back cash from all around the world that's sitting offshore and I think the American public is focused on that," Mnuchin told CNBC in August.

Trump has pledged to cut the U.S. corporate tax rate to 15 percent from more than 30 percent currently, saying it will encourage companies to keep their tax addresses in the United States. Obama's treasury under Jack Lew has enacted rules to make it more difficult for companies to use inversions to get lower tax rates overseas.

Trump's administration will clash with Obama's on trade, as Trump wants to scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Lew said earlier this year he hoped the Asian trade agreement could still be passed. In addition, Trump has trashed and pledged to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, which Obama's administration praises for helping to create what it calls a safer financial system.

Mnuchin was named Trump's campaign finance chairman in May. The campaign did not start seriously fundraising until June, much later than presidential candidates typically do.

Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton while both raising and spending considerably less than his rival. Mnuchin helped to oversee a campaign that spent much less than Clinton on television advertising and payroll, benefiting from free media coverage and social media efforts.

Ross chosen for Commerce secretary

Ross, the 78-year-old billionaire head of W.L. Ross, has built is reputation as a so-called vulture investor, swooping in to rescue failing companies across a number of industries.

More significantly in recent days, he has been a close adviser for Trump as the Republican puts together a team for his new administration that begins in January. Ross left Trump Tower on Tuesday smiling while wearing a camouflage patterned "Make America Great Again" hat.

"Wilbur knows that cutting taxes for working families, reducing burdensome government regulations and unleashing America's energy resources will strengthen our economy at a time when our country needs to see significant growth," Trump said.

The appointment also represents another insider pick for a candidate who promised to bring outsiders in to fix what ails Washington. Ross has made what is estimated by Forbes to be a $2.9 billion fortune by saving companies in a variety of sectors, including steel and coal.

Before starting his own firm, Ross for 25 years led Rothschild's bankruptcy practice. He has praised Trump for promising a "more radical, new approach to government."

— NBC News and Reuters contributed to this report.