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Then Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen arrives for a briefing at the U.S. Federal Reserve in 2017.Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images file

With breakthrough Treasury nomination, Yellen gets last laugh

In ugly ways, Trump tried to turn Janet Yellen into a villain. In 2021, she'll return to public service as the nation's first woman Treasury secretary.


Joe Biden already announced his choices for several foreign policy and national security posts this afternoon, but the president-elect is just getting started filling out his team.

Biden also plans to nominate Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary, CNBC reported Monday. Yellen, a former chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, would be the first woman to hold the job if she is confirmed by the Senate. As Treasury secretary, Yellen would lead the administration's effort to get the economy back on its feet after the devastation caused by Covid-19.

The fact that it's taken nearly a quarter of a millennium to have a woman serve as Treasury secretary is indefensible. The breakthrough is long overdue.

It's also a reminder that the incoming Democratic White House is committed to a diverse team: If confirmed, Alejandro Mayorkas will be the first Latino and immigrant to lead DHS; Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be only the second Black woman to represent the United States at the U.N.; Avril Haines will be the first woman to lead the intelligence community; and Yellen will be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department.

But let's not brush past the fact that Donald Trump targeted Yellen in some ugly ways in recent years, which makes it all the more notable that she's getting the last laugh.

In the fall of 2016, then-candidate Trump desperately wanted the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in order to slow the economy and help his candidacy. When Yellen didn't, the Republican effectively accused her of corrupt motives.

As regular readers may recall, Trump complained bitterly four years ago that Yellen resisted his calls to raise rates "because the Obama administration and the president doesn't want her to." He added that Yellen was "obviously not independent" from the Democratic White House.

As Election Day 2016 drew closer, Trump again insisted not only that the Fed should raise interest rates, but that Yellen was part of some kind of conspiracy to help Democrats by keeping interest rates low and the economy revving. The Republican said in September 2016 that the Fed had created a "false economy" through "artificially low" rates. "I think she should be ashamed of herself," Trump said about Yellen.

In case this weren't quite enough, just days before the end of the 2016 cycle, the Trump campaign unveiled a closing-message television ad in which the future president told voters, "For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don't have your good in mind."

As Trump said "levers of power in Washington" in the ad, viewers saw footage of George Soros, and when Trump said, "global special interests," images of Yellen were on screen. It wasn't lost on anyone that Soros and Yellen are both Jewish.

In 2018, Trump showed Yellen the door, ending her tenure as the first woman to lead the Fed. In 2021, she will have an opportunity to return to public service.