January 18, 2017

CNAS Briefing: Key Questions for the Mnuchin Confirmation Hearing

By Elizabeth Rosenberg

As Steven Mnuchin is set to face a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee to be the next Secretary of the Treasury, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Energy, Economics, and Security Program Director Elizabeth Rosenberg has prepared a series of questions she would like the members of the committee to ask during the hearing. The full list of questions is available below:

Sanctions, Iran, and Russia

  • President-elect Trump has said that he would “dismantle” the Iran nuclear agreement. During the presidential campaign, he also expressed admiration for President Vladimir Putin and he appears to be taking a softer stance on relations with Russia. How do these views translate into concrete steps the Department of the Treasury will take on sanctions with respect to Iran and Russia? How will you approach partners, such as the European Union, who were integral partners on both sanctions programs? What will be your message to U.S. and foreign private sector entities?


  • Sanctions have been used to advance our national security goals on issues such as territorial aggression, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation. Over the years, sanctions have evolved to become “targeted” or “smart” in the entities they expose and the impacts they achieve. In early 2016, Treasury Secretary Lew warned that overuse of sanctions with its attendant costs and risks would erode the capability of this tool going forward. How do you view the use of sanctions as a tool to achieve U.S. national security interests? When and how should the United States impose sanctions? Are there steps the United States can take to ensure the strength and effectiveness of sanctions going forward? If yes, what are they?



Trade, Economics, and National Security

  • You have said that trade reform will be a top priority in the Trump administration and that you prefer bilateral trade agreements over regional pacts. As you know, the United States has been negotiating major regional trade deals, namely the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, in recent years. Proponents have argued that these deals will result in economic and strategic gains for the United States. Indeed, U.S. economic strength and expansive international trading relationships are the engine of U.S. national security. Please provide details on how you intend to pursue trade reform and offer your articulation of how bilateral agreements would better serve U.S. economic and national security interests than regional pacts.

Technology and the Global Financial System

  • Emerging technologies, such as social media and virtual currencies, have provided new digital platforms and currencies with which to conduct financial transactions. On the one hand, such technologies help promote greater financial inclusion, market efficiencies, and reduced transaction costs. On the other hand, these technologies also come with features, such as increased anonymity, that facilitate their use by illicit actors for money laundering and other criminal activity. Specific areas of concern include the use of payment cards and digital currencies by terrorists and their sponsors. Please offer your thoughts on the opportunities as well as threats posed by new technologies to the global financial system. How should financial inclusion be balanced with fighting illicit financial activities?


  • President-elect Trump has criticized President Obama’s efforts at normalizing U.S.-Cuban relations, and in the weeks after the November presidential election called for a “better deal” with Cuba. This is a reiteration of a prior claim that the president-elect made in September 2016 that a “stronger deal” was needed with Cuba. What role do you see for the Department of the Treasury in crafting a new deal with Cuba? Will you reinstate the sanctions on Cuba that have been removed and expand the sanctions regime?


Rosenberg is available for interviews on the confirmation hearing. To arrange one, please contact Neal Urwitz at nurwitz@cnas.org, or call 202-457-9409.


  • Elizabeth Rosenberg

    Former Senior Fellow and Director, Energy, Economics and Security Program

    Elizabeth Rosenberg is a former Senior Fellow and Director of the Energy, Economics, and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. In this capacity, she publ...