In the spring of 2020, the federal pandemic response was marked by disorganization, inefficiency, and confusion. Documents previously published by American Oversight have shown how during this time, members of the private sector had privileged access to top officials, including White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
American Oversight has obtained additional records that shed light on the potential influence wielded at this time by members of the private sector, including multiple large companies, as shown through their communications with Mnuchin and Kushner.
On March 18, 2020, General Electric CEO Larry Culp emailed Mnuchin, thanking him for “taking the time to speak with me yesterday about the growing crisis in the aviation industry” and asking that aviation manufacturers receive “at least $60 billion” in federal assistance. Mnuchin replied, “Got the message.” The industry received a $25 billion bailout that month, an amount that increased to more than $50 billion by March 2021.
Later that month, on March 31, Ford Motor Co. CFO Tim Stone sent Mnuchin suggestions regarding the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility, which had been established by the Federal Reserve to ensure employers could access credit during the pandemic. Stone also asked for a federal stimulus program that would “meaningfully stimulate demand for cars.”
Mnuchin also fielded requests from Arnaldo Perez, the general counsel of cruise company Carnival, and Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue. On April 1, Gap CEO Sonia Syngal thanked Mnuchin for having joined in a call with her and “other retail CEOs” a few days before, and said the CEOs endorsed a proposal from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that would allow companies to defer paying import duties. Syngal followed up on April 13, asking Mnuchin to step in and “help overcome the impasse on tariff deferral.” That week, the Treasury Department and CBP announced a new rule that granted importers the option to defer payment of duties, taxes, and fees for 90 days.
Kushner was also receiving requests from top private-sector executives at this time. On April 16, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon emailed Kushner regarding a “Walmart Tax Issue in Mexico,” in which the Mexican government was seeking millions in taxes from the sale of a restaurant chain. Kushner forwarded the email to Mnuchin, saying, “Would love to help if we can.” Mnuchin replied, “I am speaking with finance minister today so will discuss.” Walmart ultimately paid Mexico $358 million to settle the dispute.
Finally, the documents include an April 25 email from Ivanka Trump to Mnuchin about “an idea” she had regarding the Paycheck Protection Program and community development financial institutions, though details are redacted. “I would love to discuss further and see how my team can work with yours and [redacted] to get this up and going ahead of the second round of PPP going live on [April 27].” Mnuchin connected her staff with Bimal Patel, the assistant secretary of the Treasury for financial institutions, who said he would connect with Ivanka Trump’s staff “offline.”
Part of Investigation: