In an interview on Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made a joke about everyone sending their kids to go and see LEGO Batman, a movie that he helped produce. So now Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, is calling for the Office of Government Ethics to investigate Mnuchin for violating ethics rules. It's almost as if the Democrats never want to win the White House ever again.
Screenshot from the movie Lego Batman (left) Steven Mnuchin (right, photo by Getty Images)
Mnuchin's interview with Axios included a question about movie recommendations, something the Treasury Secretary might know a thing or two about, given the fact that he's produced everything from blockbusters like Mad Max: Fury Road to critical disasters like Suicide Squad.
Mike Allen of Axios asked about Mnuchin's favourite movie. The answer? Avatar, which he helped produce. The interviewer then asked if Mnuchin had seen the Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short, which Mnuchin characterised as "complete misrepresentations" of Wall Street.
The last question: What movie would Mnuchin recommend right now?
"I'm not allowed to promote anything that I'm involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure, you've asked me the question, and I am not promoting any product," Mnuchin said on Friday. "But you should send all your kids to LEGO Batman."
The crowd laughed and it was clearly a joke, but Wyden has asked Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub to investigate. At this point it seems apparent that the Democrats don't have their eye on the ball.
The Trump administration is the most corrupt US administration in modern history. President Trump never properly divested himself from his business interests and has stocked the White House with family members and friends who stand to benefit personally from their connection with the government. As just one example, Trump is in direct violation of his lease for the Old Post Office in Washington DC, which is now Trump's hotel. President Trump appoints the head of the GSA, which effectively makes Trump his own landlord.
There are countless things to go after the Trump White House about, and perhaps under normal circumstances this stupid LEGO Batman joke might be something for someone with nothing better to do to pursue. But not only was this clearly a joke made by Mnuchin, it doesn't crack the top 100 ethics violations we've seen so far from the Trump White House.
Mnuchin's office released a statement to Reuters, explaining that he had been asked a direct question about movies.
"As his statement reflects, the Secretary clearly recognised that he generally may not promote private interests and specifically gave the legal disclosure that he was not promoting a movie, but answering a question he was asked directly," the statement from Mnuchin's office read.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during an interview after joking about everyone sending their kids to see Lego Batman (Screenshot from C-SPAN)
And LEGO Batman aside, what about the rest of Mnuchin's bizarre comments during the Axios interview? Mnuchin's reference to Trump's "perfect genes" and his insistence that the administration isn't worried about the affects of automation on jobs for another 50-100 years were both completely strange.
Even Kellyanne Conway's efforts to promote the Ivanka Trump brand from the White House seem quaint at this point. They were clearly an ethics violation, but again, there are bigger fish to fry. The fact that Ivanka now has an office in the White House and a security clearance are much more concerning than Conway's tasteless shilling for her products.
LEGO Batman will be released March 30 in Australia. It could not be confirmed by press time whether the Democrats are trying to lose the White House in 2020 or if their inability to prioritise is just a bad habit.