Outrage ensued last month after it was reported that the Harriet Tubman $20 bill wouldn’t be released in 2020, as Obama administration officials had demanded before he left office.
President Donald Trump and his administration were immediately and predictably accused of racism and delaying the bill until 2024 for political reasons.
Now, three “current or former high-ranking government officials” who worked under the Obama administration have told The Washington Post that the Trump administration did not delay the printing of the bill, but rather couldn’t meet the deadline imposed by the Obama administration.
Two of the officials were appointed by President Barack Obama, and one was appointed by George. W. Bush but served under Obama. They told the Post that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is merely following a timeline set by the Obama administration that was not possible logistically. From the Post:
In 2016, President’s Obama Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said a “final concept design” of the Tubman $20 would be released in 2020. He asked the government to accelerate the process of the redesign, saying the new look would be released by 2020, the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote.
But inside the agency, some government officials doubted that deadline could be met. A confidential 2013 report by the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence committee, an interagency group that oversees the redesign of U.S. currency, said the $20 would not enter circulation until 2030, similar to the timeline announced by the Trump administration, according to Larry R. Felix, director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing from 2006 to 2015.
Misreported by the media was the fact that the Obama administration only demanded the concept of the new bill be released in 2020, not the new bill itself. Felix told the outlet this would not be possible as concept designs were never released so far in advance of bills entering circulation. He also told the Post he brought up his concerns before leaving the Treasury in 2015.
“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,” he said.
This didn’t matter to Democrats and their media supporters, who breathlessly criticized Trump for an alleged indiscretion for pushing back the concept design. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) even called for an investigation into the concept’s delay. The Treasury Department’s Inspector General now says it will investigate.
This wasn’t the first time a government official pushed back on the media narrative. In mid-June, Bureau of Engraving and Printing Director Len Olija said the reason for the delay was to protect the security of the bill, The Daily Wire previously reported.
"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 in a statement. "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."