The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump said hedge funders were ‘getting away with murder.’ Now he wants one to help run the economy.

Steven Mnuchin, the Trump campaign's finance director, arrives at President-elect Donald Trump's Trump Tower in New York City on Nov. 29. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
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Throughout the presidential election, Donald Trump’s relationship with Wall Street ran hot and cold. On the podium, he sounded a populist battle cry — heaping disdain on elites and tarring his opponents by their associations with Wall Street. But behind the scenes, Trump assembled a gang of financiers, bankers and ex-bankers to advise his campaign.

Now, he is drawing on that same set of highflying, high-net-worth individuals to captain his new administration. There was Betsy DeVos, a billionaire investor and a heavyweight political donor, whom Trump nominated as his education secretary. There was Wilbur Ross, also a billionaire investor, said to be Trump’s pick to become commerce secretary.

On Wednesday, Trump named another member of America’s wealthy capitalists for a position in his Cabinet.

Steve Mnuchin, a hedge fund chairman and 17-year Goldman Sachs alum, is Trump’s pick for treasury secretary. If he is confirmed, Mnuchin would be at the helm of any future decisions on bank bailouts or economic stimulus. Previously, Mnuchin was the finance chairman on Trump’s campaign, where he was in charge of soliciting political donations. 

Many voters found Trump's anti-elite message genuine despite this dissonance of a self-styled billionaire claiming to be a champion of the common man. He cast himself as a former “ultimate insider” who knew how the system was broken. Now, after Trump ran a rancorous campaign that reserved its keenest barbs for hedge funders and bankers, the question is whether Americans will also embrace Trump’s new Cabinet of financiers, who are members of the same moneyed class that Trump profited from insulting.

Below, we’ve collected five of Trump’s most famous statements about Wall Street and big banks.

“I'm not going to let Wall Street get away with murder. Wall Street has caused tremendous problems for us. We're going to tax Wall Street.” — Jan. 9, 2016 in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Even as he was threatening to bring the hammer down on big banks, he hinted that his campaign would draw also upon the talents of Wall Street. “I know the people on Wall Street,” Trump said at the same event. “We're going to have the greatest negotiators of the world.”

“I want to save the middle class. You know, the middle class — the hedge fund guys didn't build this country. These are guys that shift paper around and they get lucky.” — Aug. 23, 2015 on “Face the Nation.”

This is one way that Trump has tried to draw a distinction between Wall Street and his own line of work: He is in the business of building things.

“The hedge fund guys are getting away with murder. They're making a tremendous amount of money. They have to pay taxes.” — Aug. 23, 2015 on “Face the Nation.”

During the same telephone call, Trump reiterated his promise to bring Wall Street to economic justice. Mainly, he means he will close the carried interest loophole, which would effectively raise taxes on people who manage other people’s money. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also supported closing this loophole, so it was a rare point of agreement between the two of them.

“We’ve seen this firsthand in the WikiLeaks documents in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.” — Oct. 13, 2016 during a speech in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Trump has often accused his rivals — Clinton, Ted Cruz — of being in the pocket of big banks. This was a favorite line of attack during his campaign.

In one of his most controversial statements, Trump accused Clinton of conspiring with international banks to bring down America. Historian Simon Schama said on Twitter that the remarks sounded like they came “straight from the anti-Semitic canon.” Some white supremacists believe that a cabal of Jewish financiers controls the world, an idea that was popularized by the Nazis.

“I don't believe in settling cases. I'm not Jamie Dimon, who pays $13 billion to settle a case and then pays $11 billion to settle a case and who I think is the worst banker in the United States.” — Oct. 22, 2013, told to Bloomberg View columnist William Cohan.

Trump has also publicly criticized JPMorgan Chairman Jamie Dimon, who settled a $13 billion lawsuit with the Justice Department over allegations that the bank engaged in mortgage shenanigans that contributed to the financial crisis. Trump believed that Dimon should have fought that lawsuit.

“What happened to the days when you actually go to trial?” he said, according to Bloomberg View columnist William Cohan. “I'm from the old school.” (Last month, Trump settled a $25 million lawsuit of his own, over allegations that Trump University had defrauded students.)