What Trump is signaling with his possible Treasury and Fed picks


Former President Donald Trump already appears to have a good idea of who might be on his economic team if he wins this November.

The ongoing semipublic floating of candidates from the former president is new in that it is starting much earlier than in elections past.

What’s familiar is that Donald Trump is once again embracing both loyalists and the wealthiest and most well-known figures from the worlds of Wall Street and Washington.

“I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person,” Trump himself memorably said in 2017 of his criteria for selecting officials to oversee the economy.

More recently, a picture of Trump’s possible economic team has begun to emerge through public comments and signals as well as leaks to the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson appears to hold, for now at least, a prime position in the effort to become Treasury Secretary among a variety of finance figures.

On the Fed, an array of Trump loyalists appear to be in the mix for the multiple slots that could become open in a second Trump term.

Former President Donald Trump, right, stands with Melania Trump, second from right, as they are greeted by John Paulson, left, and Alina de Almeida, second from left, at a GOP fundraiser, Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)Former President Donald Trump, right, stands with Melania Trump, second from right, as they are greeted by John Paulson, left, and Alina de Almeida, second from left, at a GOP fundraiser, Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Former President Donald Trump, right, stands with Melania Trump, second from right, as they are greeted by John Paulson, left, and Alina de Almeida, second from left, at a massive GOP fundraiser on April 6 at Paulson’s home. (Lynne Sladky/AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

It’s a process that — so far at least — has evoked Trump job searches of the past with a similar mix of evergreen Trump loyalists and a special focus on billionaires, some of whom may not even want the job.

Much of the process so far has been distinctly Trump but other dynamics offer echoes of years past. The Treasury, for example, has often been open to D.C. outsiders — such as Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson — who are able to jump straight from Wall Street to the Treasury’s headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Fed chairs, by contrast, have often required years of time in D.C. or academia before they can steer the economy from that side.

Trump aides have often tried to publicly downplay the validity of the various names being bandied about and didn’t respond to a Yahoo Finance request to confirm who might be under consideration.

Here is a deeper look at some of the most oft-mentioned names and how the process has played out similarly or differently than Trump job searches of years past:

Treasury

Apparently atop the list at the moment is John Paulson, the billionaire hedge fund billionaire who co-hosted a massive fundraiser for Trump at his Florida home recently. Trump has even publicly floated Paulson for the job.

In January, Trump told a New Hampshire crowd that Paulson “makes a hell of a lot of money,” adding, “You know what? Put him at Treasury. You want to make a little money?”

Reporters at the recent fundraiser — which Trump says raised $50.5 million — even asked for an update on Paulson’s likelihood as Treasury Secretary to no avail.

Paulson appears to be far from the only finance-world figure under consideration.

There is Scott Bessent, a former Soros Fund Management investing chief, who co-hosted the recent fundraiser. Also on the various lists are Stephen A. Schwarzman, the Blackstone CEO, and Jeff Yass, the billionaire known for his giant stake in TikTok.

All have crossed paths with Trump over the years but have not had extended working relationships with the former president.

I said hello to him and his wife was lovely,” Trump recently said of a meeting with Yass that he says was about education.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 10:  Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he arrives at the Atlanta Airport on April 10, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia. Trump is visiting Atlanta for a campaign fundraising event he is hosting. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)ATLANTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 10:  Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he arrives at the Atlanta Airport on April 10, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia. Trump is visiting Atlanta for a campaign fundraising event he is hosting. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he arrives at the Atlanta Airport on April 10. (Megan Varner/Getty Images) (Megan Varner via Getty Images)

The pattern was similar in 2016, with Trump largely focusing on high finance names when it came to filling that job. Former BB&T CEO John Allison was reportedly in the running back then, as was Jonathan Gray of Blackstone.

Trump ultimately settled of course on Steven Mnuchin with his resume that included 17 years at Goldman Sachs.

The one name on lists both then and now is someone who has said repeatedly he would never take the job: JPMorgan Chase’s (JPM) Jamie Dimon.

The powerful CEO did raise some eyebrows with recent comments that Trump was right on some key issues, but the longtime Democrat has repeatedly ruled himself out of consideration.

He also released a shareholder letter recently that was politically notable for doubling down on the politically contentious issue of diversity, equity, and inclusion and outlining a foreign policy that appeared more aligned with Biden than Trump.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 03:  U.S. President Donald Trump (2nd L) greets JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon (L) and other guests at the beginning of a policy forum in the State Dining Room at the White House February 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. Leaders from the automotive and manufacturing industries, the financial and retail services and other powerful global businesses were invited to the meeting with Trump, his advisors and family.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 03:  U.S. President Donald Trump (2nd L) greets JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon (L) and other guests at the beginning of a policy forum in the State Dining Room at the White House February 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. Leaders from the automotive and manufacturing industries, the financial and retail services and other powerful global businesses were invited to the meeting with Trump, his advisors and family.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Then-President Donald Trump greets JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, left, and others at the beginning of a policy forum at the White House in 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) (Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)

For Trump, perhaps the main difference between then and now is timing.

His most aggressive name-dropping for Treasury in 2016 occurred right as that campaign wound down, with a political reaction evident back then to a candidate who ran as a populist outsider looking to rich financiers for his most prominent economic positions.

“It is difficult to see how a second-generation Goldman Sachs partner would secure such a prominent position in an administration delivered by a populist wind,” Compass Point analyst Isaac Boltansky noted to POLITICO at the time about Mnuchin, who indeed ended up getting the job.

This time around Trump is apparently more comfortable floating these names, with these figures not incidentally able to help fund his cash-starved campaign.

The Fed

When it comes to the Fed, the most oft-mentioned names in news reports and elsewhere have tended to be Washington insiders and loyalists who have worked more closely with Trump over the years.

One is former Fed Governor Kevin Warsh. He appears to be on the shortlist and was reportedly in contention last time to be Fed chair, but the then-47-year-old was hampered — according to a 2017 Wall Street Journal account — by seeming “too young.”

It was a process back in 2017 that ended with Trump picking Jerome Powell for the spot.

This time around, all the names floated so far are very familiar to Trump. In addition to Warsh, names that have come up include Kevin Hassett, who worked as a senior adviser to Trump, and David Malpass, whom Trump picked to head the World Bank.

Kevin Hassett, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, speaks about the economy as US President Donald Trump (C) and Vice President Mike Pence (R) look on at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 27, 2018. - The US economy roared to life in the second quarter, posting the fastest annual growth rate in almost four years and the strongest among industrialized nations, according to government data released Friday. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)Kevin Hassett, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, speaks about the economy as US President Donald Trump (C) and Vice President Mike Pence (R) look on at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 27, 2018. - The US economy roared to life in the second quarter, posting the fastest annual growth rate in almost four years and the strongest among industrialized nations, according to government data released Friday. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

Kevin Hassett, then the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, speaks about the economy as Donald Trump and Mike Pence look on at the White House in 2018. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images) (NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images)

Two other names include Arthur Laffer, whom Trump awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Judy Shelton, whom Trump unsuccessfully tried to nominate to the Fed in 2020.

As with the Treasury deliberations, Trump’s Fed trial balloons have come much earlier this time around in contrast to 2016 and 2017, when lists were apparently narrowed down only once Trump was in office.

Likely accelerating the timeline is Trump’s now-antagonistic relationship with Chair Powell.

As for his deliberations, Trump has been clear on only one thing: He won’t reappoint Powell, though he hasn’t signaled whether he’d look to oust Powell before his term as chair expires in May 2026.

Ben Werschkul is Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.

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