Dems ramp up pressure on key Trump cabinet pick

David Catanese

Democrats are already attempting to put GOP senators representing swing states in a vice over President-elect Donald Trump's selection for secretary of the treasury, an indication on where the party might focus its opposition once confirmation hearings commence.

A liberal group, Allied Progress, launched a pair of new ads against Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada on Wednesday targeting Trump's selection of Steve Mnuchin to serve as the country's top economic official. Mnuchin, a former partner at Goldman Sachs, was the finance chairman for Trump's presidential campaign.

The spots, which have six-figure cable television buys behind them, note that Mnuchin made "millions after his bank foreclosed on homeowners and discriminated against Latinos."

The campaign is meant to highlight Mnuchin's time at OneWest, a bank that gained a reputation for foreclosing on tens of thousands of homeowners during the housing crisis. The ads also seize on a federal complaint filed in November 2016 that OneWest discriminated against minorities.

"Mnuchin made a killing off the foreclosure crisis and these states were among the hardest hit. And it's not just that he ran a bank at the time, his bank was seen as a bad actor during the crisis," said Mike Czin, a spokesman for Allied Progress.

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The Senate Finance Committee has yet to set a date for Mnuchin's hearings, but the nominee has been on Capitol Hill making the rounds with lawmakers.

On Wednesday, Mnuchin huddled with Flake, who tweeted that he spoke with the treasury secretary-designate about cross-border commerce with Mexico. A spokesman for Flake also said the two discussed the national debt and federal spending. A spokesman for Heller did not respond to a request for comment.

Both Heller and Flake face potential competitive re-election races in 2018. Heller will compete in a state carried by Hillary Clinton and is the last remaining GOPer in the federal delegation. A survey by Republican pollster Remington Research Group found that Flake would face a difficult primary if he's challenged. The survey placed Flake's favorability among Republican primary voters at just 30 percent.

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Republicans have 52 senators in this Congress. They'll need 51 votes to confirm Mnuchin.

But because of his direct ties to Wall Street, Democrats see Mnuchin as a ripe target to land claims of hypocrisy against Trump, who during his campaign focused much of his populist rhetoric against big banks.