Trump fills top spots with Goldman Sachs employees
Candidate Trump loved to call out his opponents for having ties to Goldman Sachs.
"I know the guys at Goldman Sachs. They have total, total control over him (Ted Cruz). Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton," Trump said in February 2016.
But President Trump is singing a different tune, turning to several Goldman Sachs executives to help him run the federal government.
Trump’s latest Goldman hire is Jim Donovan, a two-decade veteran of the Wall Street bank, who has been nominated to the No. 2 position at the Treasury Department.
As deputy secretary, Donovan would be positioned to use his background in investment banking and corporate strategy to help Trump revamp the tax code and cut financial regulation. In addition to being a managing director at Goldman, Donovan is an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.
Goldman Sachs applauded the nomination of Donovan, calling him in a statement "smart, extraordinarily versatile, and as hard working as they come."
If confirmed as deputy secretary, Donovan will report to another Goldman man: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who made a fortune during his nearly two decades at the bank.
Critics pounced on Trump’s nomination of Donovan.
"President Trump should give candidate Trump a call," Karl Frisch, executive director of progressive group Allied Progress, said in a statement. "By handing over our economy to Goldman Sachs, Trump continues to betray working class Americans."
Donovan will join a handful of other Goldman alumnus in the Trump administration. Gary Cohn left his perch as Goldman’s Number Two executive with $285 million to become Trump’s top economic adviser. Cohn has served as the face of the White House push to deregulate the financial industry.
Trump also nominated Jay Clayton, a high-powered lawyer who represented Goldman Sachs, to be the next leader of the SEC, which is responsible for rooting out financial crime. Clayton advised Goldman on its government bailout and his wife Gretchen works at the bank as a private wealth adviser.
Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, worked at Goldman Sachs in the 1980s, though he has since emerged as a critic of Wall Street. Former Goldman partner Dina Powell has also joined the Trump administration as an economic adviser.
Of course, Trump isn’t the first president to hire Goldman employees. Robert Rubin and Hank Paulson both went from Goldman Sachs to become treasury secretary under former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively.
Still, Trump’s decision to surround himself with Goldman veterans is surprising given his populist talk on the campaign trail. Trump told voters that Wall Street would no longer "get away with murder" after the industry caused "tremendous problems." He also knocked Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street banks, including Goldman Sachs.
"This guy is a fraud…It is hard not to laugh to see President Trump alongside these Wall Street guys," Senator Bernie Sanders told CNN’s Jake Tapper in February.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren recently wrote a letter to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein asking him to explain how much "influence" the bank has over Trump’s economic policies and efforts to rip up Dodd-Frank. Warren noted that Goldman’s stock price has surged since the election.
Goldman said in a statement at the time that it had "no involvement in the drafting of any executive orders."
Activists even converged in front of the Goldman Sachs tower in Lower Manhattan last month to protest what they called "Government Sachs."
Trump has defended his willingness to lean on Wall Street executives for advice by arguing he’s focused on creating jobs.
"When I campaigned for office, I promised the American people that I’d ask for our country’s best and brightest," Trump said last month.