As Trump Touted the “Fantastic” Economy, Mick Mulvaney Was Selling Off His Stocks

As Trump Touted the “Fantastic” Economy, Mick Mulvaney Was Selling Off His Stocks
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The then-White House chief of staff reportedly dumped between $215,000 and $550,000 in holdings in March, while the president was still claiming the economy was in “great shape.”
In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, the Trump administration’s public response to the rapidly-spreading pandemic was basically: Just don’t worry about it. “We’re talking about very small numbers in the United States,” Trump said on March 4 in a White House meeting with airline CEOs, days after he predicted cases would soon go “down to zero” and the virus would “disappear.” (The number of cases in the U.S. has since increased by more than two million.) On the economy, too, the White House continued to claim things were still in great shape, urging calm and projecting optimism even as the markets showed otherwise. “Our economy is doing fantastically,” Trump told Sean Hannity on March 4. “Numbers are coming out very well. The consumer in the United States is unbelievably strong, stronger than ever before, I believe.”But the same day as Trump was touting the “fantastic” economy and brushing off the virus, one of his top advisers seemingly had a much darker outlook about where things were headed. The Daily Beast reports that on March 4, then-White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney sold between $215,000 and $550,000 in mutual fund holdings, which were largely made up of U.S. stocks. The trades “represented the vast majority of Mulvaney’s holdings in publicly traded funds,” the Daily Beast notes, and Mulvaney didn’t report selling any stocks in 2019, making his sudden sale a sharp departure from his previous stock habits. (Mulvaney, who also served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, then departed his chief of staff post on March 6. He now serves as the U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland.)

As the Daily Beast points out, Mulvaney’s massive stock dump isn’t necessarily a sign of insider trading or any major impropriety. It was already pretty obvious by March 4 that the coronavirus was becoming a major problem for both Americans’ health and the economy, and the market was showing clear signs of distress by the time Mulvaney decided to sell his stocks. (The stock market did briefly surge on March 4 after Joe Biden’s strong showing on Super Tuesday, though it soon plummeted again.) But the panic-selling suggests that the Trump administration’s public messaging on coronavirus and the economy went not only against the conventional wisdom among public health and economic experts, but even what its own top figures were doing behind closed doors. “The market is in great shape,” Trump said on March 3, while White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow encouraged investors to buy on the dip on March 6. “This is contained,” Kudlow said about the coronavirus at the time.

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