Key Democrat presses Mnuchin about Trump's name on coronavirus checks

The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday pressed Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinPence delivers coronavirus task force report to Biden Treasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference MORE about the decision to put President TrumpDonald TrumpMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Trump planned to oust acting AG to overturn Georgia election results: report MORE's name on the coronavirus relief checks, after Mnuchin said the move was his idea.

"To set the record straight, I request details about how you made this decision to benefit the president politically, which may delay delivery of critical funds to millions of Americans struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table," Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury MORE (D-Ore.) wrote in a letter to Mnuchin.

The $2.2 trillion stimulus legislation enacted late last month, known as the CARES Act, provides for one-time direct payments for most Americans of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. 


The Treasury Department said it has already sent payments to more than 80 million Americans via direct deposit and started issuing paper checks this week. 

Mnuchin said in a CNN interview on Sunday that the paper checks will have Trump's name on them, but that the president is not the signer of the checks.

"We did put the president's name on the check. That was my idea," Mnuchin said. "He is the president, and I think it's a terrific symbol to the American public."

Mnuchin said that Trump could have been authorized to sign the checks, but that Treasury decided against doing so because the department didn't want to slow down their issuance.

Wyden said in his letter that Mnuchin's comments were "surprising" to him because his staff had previously asked Treasury officials questions about signatures on the checks, and those officials didn't answer them.


"If adding the signature was in fact your idea that information could have already been made available to Congress," Wyden wrote.

The Washington Post last week reported that Trump had suggested that he formally sign the checks, instead of them being signed by a nonpartisan civil servant. The Post also quoted the national president of an association for federal government managers as saying that a decision like the one to put Trump's name on the checks would result in delays.

"I am concerned that the decision to gratuitously affix the president’s name to checks disbursing taxpayer funds may have delayed delivery of money urgently needed by millions of Americans to meet basic needs," Wyden wrote.

Treasury spokeswoman Monica Crowley last week called the Washington Post article "inaccurate and misleading," saying the checks are set to be sent out on time.

Wyden asked Mnuchin for information about where and how Trump's name will appear on the checks, who at Treasury was involved in deciding that Trump's name would be featured, what effect the decision to add Trump's name will have on the timing of the payments and whether the president has the authority to sign checks drawn against Treasury accounts.