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Steven Mnuchin Should Have Known Better Than to Mansplain Congressional Hearings to Maxine Waters

Big mistake. Huge.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters rests her head on her chin, fresh out of patience, above a plaque reading Chairwoman.

Yesterday, Steven Mnuchin went to Capitol Hill to give the Treasury Secretary’s annual testimony on the state of the international financial system. The House Committee on Financial Services is chaired by Maxine Waters, famous for not holding back her disdain for foolishness or crimes, both of which were on full display in this hearing.

Right off the bat, Waters asked Mnuchin about the request for Donald Trump’s tax returns. (He admitted during the hearing that White House lawyers communicated with the Treasury Department over how to release those returns, despite there being a law designed to keep the White House out of these discussions.) She brought up the alleged negotiations regarding Russian sanctions and the personal financial benefit members of the Trump administration and their friends might have seen from the lifting of those sanctions.

Basically, there was a lot to get through.

Mnuchin, though, scheduled a meeting with Bahrain’s interior minister for that evening and needed to leave by 5pm. He apparently informed the committee of this fact only the day before. In her opening statement, Rep. Waters called this “unacceptable” and said that if Mnuchin wasn’t able to stay for the full duration of the hearing (which gets to be as long as Waters decides), he’d be brought back for “multiple additional hearings” next month.

Mnuchin apparently didn’t take her words seriously, and that’s on him.

After about three hours, Mnuchin began pushing to leave, saying it would be “embarrassing” to keep the foreign official waiting. He said that his predecessors had never been asked to stay as long as he already had.

“I appreciate your reminding us of the length of time other secretaries have been here,” Waters replied. “This is a new way. And it’s a new day. And it’s a new Chair. And I have the gavel at this point. If you wish to leave, you may,” she told him.

The two then have a somewhat testy back and forth, with Mnuchin asking if he’s dismissed, and Waters simply repeating that if he wished to leave, he may. Mnuchin didn’t like that very much. He told her that when the Republicans were in charge, they were much nicer. He also threatened to “rethink whether I want to voluntarily come back here to testify.”

Waters pointed out that if he’s looking for examples of precedent, no other secretary has ever told the committee the day before a hearing that they were going to limit their time.

Throughout all of this, the dynamic feels like a parent and whiny child, with Waters remaining perfectly, almost scarily, calm while Mnuchin becomes more and more petulant. “If you’d wish to keep me here so I don’t have my important meeting and continue to grill me, then we can do that,” said Mnuchin. “I will cancel my meeting and I will not be back here. I will be very clear, if that’s the way you’d like to have this relationship.”

“Thank you!” Waters replied. “The secretary has agreed to stay to hear all of the rest of the members.” Mnuchin tries to interrupt her and she tells him, “Please cancel your meeting and respect our time.”

Mnuchin apparently didn’t expect her to accept his fake offer. “You’re instructing me to stay here,” he said.

“No,” Waters replied. “You just made me an offer.”

“No, I didn’t make you an offer,” he said.

“You made me an offer that I accepted,” she said.

“I did not make you an offer, let’s be clear,” he said. They go back and forth like that for a while, with Waters reminding Mnuchin that he just offered to stay and Mnuchin insisting he didn’t say the words he said.

“You can go any time you want,” Waters tells him.

“Okay then, please dismiss everybody. I believe you are supposed to take the gravel and bang it,” he said, miming a little gavel as if she was new to this and needed a visual aide.

“Please do not instruct me as to how I am to conduct this committee,” she told him.

She then moved on to the next congresswoman, since Mnuchin still had not used his big boy words and said directly that he wanted to leave. Finally, he said he would give the committee another ten minutes but that he was withdrawing his offer to voluntarily come back. But the House has subpoena power, whether it’s for Trump’s tax returns or Mnuchin’s return, so they don’t really need his fake generosity for any of this.

This isn’t the first time Congresswoman Waters has had to put Mnuchin in his place. He was the recipient of her now-iconic catchphrase, “Reclaiming my time,” as he attempted to evade her questions back in a 2017 hearing.

So really, he has no excuse for not coming prepared to behave like an adult. He knew what he’d be up against.

(image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.