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Trump treasury secretary won’t commit to putting Harriet Tubman on $20 bill

Harriet Tubman. (H.B. Lindsley/Library of Congress/AP)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday would not commit to carrying out the Obama administration's plan to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, saying he had not made a decision about the matter.

Mnuchin said the decision would be based on how to design the currency in a way that prevents counterfeiting, rather than whose portrait was on the bill.

“Ultimately we will be looking at this issue,” Mnuchin said in a CNBC interview. “It’s not something I’m focused on at the moment.”

Mnuchin added that “the issues of why we change it will be primarily related to what we need to do for security purposes.”

President Barack Obama and then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew proposed last year to take President Andrew Jackson’s image off the $20 bill and replace it with Tubman's. Tubman, an abolitionist who helped many enslaved people escape, would be the only woman and only African American on commonly used U.S. paper currency.

Under Lew’s plan, Tubman’s image would be on the front of the $20 bill and Jackson’s image would appear on the other side.

The process was supposed to take several years.

President Trump has said he is very fond of Jackson, at times remarking that his election was reminiscent of the populist campaign that brought Jackson into power in 1829. Trump has a portrait of Jackson on the wall in the Oval Office.

Last year, in an interview with NBC, Trump said Tubman was “fantastic” but said putting her on the $20 bill was an example of “pure political correctness.”

“Well, Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it's very rough when you take somebody off the bill,” Trump said last year. “I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic, but I would love to leave Andrew Jackson or see if we can maybe come up with another denomination.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that Tubman would be the first woman to appear on U.S. currency.