Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday called on Congress to look into issues related to gun violence less than 24 hours after 17 people were killed in a school shooting in Florida.
“I will say, personally, I think the gun violence — it’s a tragedy what we’ve seen yesterday, and I urge Congress to look at these issues,” Mnuchin said at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing.
Mnuchin’s comments were notable, because he was the first senior Trump administration official to call for a congressional review after the massacre. He was responding to questions from Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) about whether there was any money in President Trump’s new budget to address gun violence.
Mnuchin at first seemed unprepared for that line of inquiry, stumbling through a response. “Um, I, I don’t, I’m not aware of that level of detail in the budget for me to be the expert to attest on that,” he said.
But then Mnuchin expressed his personal concerns about the issue of gun violence and asked for Congress to look into it.
Mnuchin is considered one of the least likely Cabinet members to buck Trump, making his comments Thursday even more distinct and unusual. He served as Trump’s finance chairman during the presidential campaign and has lived most of his life in New York and California, donating to candidates from both parties before joining the federal government.
A Treasury Department official later attempted to clarify Mnuchin’s remarks.
“Secretary Mnuchin was directly addressing Congressman Lewis’ question about availability of funds in the budget to address the issue of gun violence,” Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh said. “He also reflected the feelings shared by all Americans that yesterday’s school shooting was a profound tragedy.”