Kansas’ Pat Roberts gaslights fellow U.S. Senator, throws confirmation hearing into chaos

Steve Mnuchin, Donald Trump’s pick for Treasury secretary, is currently going through the confirmation process. Today, he appeared before the bipartisan Senate Finance Committee to face questions.

Unlike, say, education secretary nominee Betsy Davos, who seems to have no idea what that job even entails, or Rick Perry, who has said he doesn’t think the Department of Energy, which Trump has tapped him to lead, should even exist, Mnuchin has experience relevant to the job for which he’s been nominated. His career on Wall Street includes stints with George Soros, hedge funds, and, naturally, Goldman Sachs. A real Trump-style populist.

During the Great Recession, Mnuchin served as chairman of a company called OneWest, which made billions aggressively foreclosing on the homes of some 60,000 Americans.

“Foreclosures happen in an economic crisis. But OneWest was different. It quickly gained a reputation as a foreclosure machine,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said recently. “Even when compared to the other financial institutions that aggressively and illegally tossed families out of the houses, OneWest was notorious for its belligerence and for its cruelty.”

Mnuchin enjoying wild profits at the expense of struggling Americans was one of the issues brought up by Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, during today’s Senate Finance Committee hearing. When Wyden was done grilling Mnuchin about this, it was Kansas Republican Pat Roberts’ turn to talk. He stuck his hand in his pocket as though he were reaching for something, and then said:

“Senator Wyden, I’ve got a Valium pill here that you might want to take before the second round.”

Har har. How silly of Wyden to get worked up over confirming a guy who failed to disclose $100 million in real-estate holdings prior to his hearing, and who also failed to disclose that he directs an investment fund in the Cayman Islands, an offshore tax haven.

Wyden responded that he hoped Roberts would be brief in his comments, given the short amount of time committee members had been given to question Mnuchin. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio then interrupted:

“Mr. Chairman, I hope that that comment about Valium doesn’t set the tone for 2017 in this committee. I like Sen. Roberts, but I can’t quite believe that he would say that to the distinguished senator from Oregon.”

Roberts tried to argue that he had once said something similar to President Obama. (Cool, so he’s made the same shitty joke twice!) Then he dangled his pen in the air and delivered a senatorial version of a child’s insincere apology: “I’m sorry if I, you know, um, incurred your wrath, sir. We’ll be alright.” When Wyden reminded him of the time constraints on questioning Mnuchin, Roberts snapped, like a grumpy old wrong man, and said, “Fine, Ron, I’m done.” 

Watch the exchange below: 

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