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Obama appointees say Trump administration didn't delay $20 redesign

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Trump administration's reported delay of a $20 bill redesign featuring 19th-century abolitionist Harriet Tubman actually aligns with internal timelines produced during the Obama administration, three current or former government officials appointed by President Obama told the Washington Post.

Driving the news: Larry R. Felix, the director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing from 2006 to 2015, said the probability of releasing a concept design in 2020 had always been low due to security and fraud risks, despite then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's desire for an unveiling that coincided with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

  • Felix told the Post: "Those announcements were not grounded in reality. The U.S. had not at the time acquired the security features to redesign and protect the notes."

Context: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told the House Financial Services Committee in May that the new bill had been delayed until at least 2028 to allow for a focus on tackling counterfeiting issues, kicking off a backlash from Democratic lawmakers and forcing Treasury to issue a statement that the delay was "consistent with the prior Administration’s" timeline.

  • A former Obama appointee told the Post that the new $20 bill had always been scheduled for release toward 2030, consistent with the Trump administration's claims.
  • Bureau of Engraving and Printing Director Leonard R. Olijar, also appointed by Obama, told Congress last fall that the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence Steering Committee worked alongside his bureau to decide in 2013 that the $20 bill would not be released until 2030 — with no plan for a 2020 release of the Tubman design.

Go deeper: Schumer requests probe into Harriet Tubman $20 bill redesign delay