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Top Official Debunks New York Times’ Hit Piece On Mnuchin Over $20 Harriet Tubman Bill

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) fired back at The New York Times late last week over a report that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had intentionally delayed a new $20 bill bearing the image of Harriet Tubman for political reasons.

 

The New York Times reported:

Current and former department officials say Mr. Mnuchin chose the delay to avoid the possibility that Mr. Trump would cancel the plan outright and create even more controversy.

Work on the new bill, which began in 2016 under former President Barack Obama, was, according to Mnuchin, delayed due to technical reasons related to new currency security features that are currently being developed.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing Director Len Olija confirmed in a statement last week that the BEP "was never going to unveil a note design in 2020."

"To keep our currency safe and secure, it is unwise to give counterfeiters a look at a potential future note far in advance of a note going into circulation," Olija wrote. "Additionally, if the concept of a note that was made public by the government were to change during that lengthy amount of time, it would create confusion in the global marketplace, further aiding counterfeiters."

Olija then dispelled the Times' reporting, writing that "no Bureau or Department official has ‘scrapped’ anything; it is too early to develop an integrated concept or design until security features are finalized. The aesthetics or look of the note has always come after and been driven by the security features."

"The illustration published by the New York Times was a copy of an old Series note with the signatures of former officials, with a different image imposed on it," Olija concluded. "It is not a new $20 note, as incorrectly stated by the New York Times, in any way, shape or form. The facsimile contained no security features or offset printing included on currency notes. There is nothing about that illustration that even begins to meet technical requirements for the next family of notes."

 

Monica Crowley, a spokeswoman for Mnuchin, said in a statement:

The scheduled release (printing) of the $20 bill is on a timetable consistent with the previous administration. The Secretary at this point is focused on security features and anti-counterfeiting measures related to the currency. The suggestion that the process is being delayed is completely erroneous.

The Times quoted Larry E. Rolufs, a former director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, in an apparent attempt to try to cast doubt on Mnuchin's explanation over the delay. The Times noted, though, that Rolufs said that having the new bill in circulation by next year was ambitious and that making the change was an invitation for backlash.

"The American people don’t like their currency messed with," Rolufs said.

 

The Times also noted that Democrats in Congress have sought to politicize the issue:

And last week, a group of House Democrats demanded that the Treasur secretary provide specific information about the security concerns that were impeding the currency redesign.

The full statement from Bureau of Engraving and Printing Director Len Olija:

The Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence Steering Committee, which includes membership from the BEP, the US Secret Service and the Federal Reserve System, was chartered to make design and security recommendations to the Secretary of the Treasury. At this time, the ACD Committee and BEP remain focused on developing security features for the upcoming redesign.

As technology has evolved, banknote production has vastly changed over the last three decades. The next family of notes require new, overt and covert security features for the public, the banknote equipment manufacturers, and the central bank, to keep our currency safe and secure. Security features also need to work in mass production. A design can change during testing. The overwhelming success of the redesigned $100 in thwarting counterfeiting, is greatly due to the effectiveness of the blue security thread which is a public feature (and which a design was integrated around afterwards). That development alone of that security feature took approximately 10 years to finalize.

Moreover, BEP was never going to unveil a note design in 2020. To keep our currency safe and secure, it is unwise to give counterfeiters a look at a potential future note far in advance of a note going into circulation. Additionally, if the concept of a note that was made public by the government were to change during that lengthy amount of time, it would create confusion in the global marketplace, further aiding counterfeiters.

No Bureau or Department official has ‘scrapped’ anything; it is too early to develop an integrated concept or design until security features are finalized. The aesthetics or look of the note has always come after and been driven by the security features. Everything remains on the table.

The illustration published by the New York Times was a copy of an old Series note with the signatures of former officials, with a different image imposed on it. It is not a new $20 note, as incorrectly stated by the New York Times, in any way, shape or form. The facsimile contained no security features or offset printing included on currency notes. There is nothing about that illustration that even begins to meet technical requirements for the next family of notes.

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