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Trump picks another Goldman banker for senior post, in sharp break from campaign bashing

A Goldman Sachs sign is seen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell on Jan. 24, 2014. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

President Trump on Tuesday said he planned to nominate Goldman Sachs managing director James Donovan to serve as deputy treasury secretary, selecting his fifth Goldman veteran to take a senior role in his administration.

Trump vilified Wall Street during his presidential campaign, and one of his final campaign ads included a clip that showed Goldman chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and suggested he was part of a “global power structure.”

But since the election, Trump has picked two Goldman executives and two former Goldman executives to serve in top posts. Goldman chief operating officer Gary Cohn is now the director of the White House National Economic Council and has a tremendous amount of influence on a range of issues. Goldman’s global head of impact investing, Dina Powell, is the White House’s senior counselor for economic initiatives, working on both domestic and foreign policy issues.

And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon are both Goldman veterans, although they hadn’t worked at the firm for a number of years.

During the campaign, Trump said Wall Street was at fault for many of the problems facing the middle class, citing greed and a cozy relationship with Washington as allowing trade imbalances and corruption. He has, however, promised to roll back regulations put in place to crack down on banking practices after the financial crisis, a promise that has helped push banking stocks higher in recent months.

But Trump has said he wants to cut back on the Dodd-Frank financial law because it is crimping the ability of small banks to lend, an assertion that many economists have said is difficult to prove. Still, Trump has said he is committed to imposing new restrictions on large banks, and he also wants to change a tax provision known as “carried interest” that many have alleged allows hedge-fund executives to lower their tax bills.

The deputy treasury secretary often has a broad portfolio, working with Congress, industry groups and the Treasury Department’s rank and file to advance the administration’s agenda and to make sure operations are running properly.

“Jim is smart, extremely versatile and as hard-working as they come,” said Jake Siewert, the global head of corporate communications at Goldman Sachs. “He will be an invaluable asset to the economic team.”

Although he's a Goldman veteran, Donovan has tested his hand in politics for years, backing Mitt Romney and later Jeb Bush as they sought the White House.

Trump announced a number of other Treasury Department personnel moves Tuesday evening, moves that meant he had selected more top officials for that agency than any other so far.

He said he was nominating Adam Lerrick, a former congressional staffer and economics professor, to serve as assistant secretary for international finance. He picked Andrew Maloney, a former lobbyist for Hess Corp., to serve as Treasury’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs. He picked David Malpass, a former official in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, to serve as undersecretary for international affairs, a post that essentially would make him Treasury’s top financial diplomat.

Trump also said he would nominate Sigal Mandelker, a lawyer and former Justice Department official, to serve as undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, and Brent McIntosh, a former Bush administration official, to serve as Treasury’s general counsel.

The appointments come as Mnuchin's portfolio is widening. He is traveling to Germany this week to meet with other top finance ministers, many of whom are eager to hear more about the Trump administration's economic goals. Mnuchin has also said he wants to complete an overhaul of the tax code before the August recess of Congress, an ambitious time-frame given how politically treacherous tax changes often prove to be.

But even with all the new help, Mnuchin will have a lot of catching up to do compared with others in the White House.

Cohn didn’t require Senate confirmation to win his post and has been close by Trump’s side for weeks. He has played a central role in the White House’s formulation of economic and domestic policy, and it is unclear whether the new additions at the Treasury Department will change that. Cohn and Mnuchin have worked closely together, though, and many business executives look to them — and potentially now Donovan as well — to represent corporate thinking inside the White House when many other top advisers are advocating for more “economic nationalism.”