WASHINGTON – The work to redesign the $20 bill and affix an image of Harriet Tubman as its centerpiece was well underway before the Trump administration delayed the plans, according to a new report from the New York Times.
Efforts to redesign the bill were advanced enough for officials at the Secret Service and government engravers to review a metal engraving plate and a digital image of the Tubman mock-up as recently as May 2018, the report said.
The report cited current and former sources at the Treasury Department, which oversees the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The Times included a preliminary image it obtained from a former Treasury official, completed in late 2016, of what a new $20 bill could look like, featuring Tubman “in a dark coat with a wide collar and a white scarf,” the report said.
A delay in the redesign of the $20 bill was motivated by concerns of a potential backlash from President Donald Trump, according to the report: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin chose a timeline extending beyond Trump's presidency to avoid the possibility of an explosive controversy, fearing that the president who has disparaged the redesign would cancel the plans altogether.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment. But in a statement to The Washington Post on Friday, Mnuchin said the redesign process is dictated by the development of security and anti-counterfeiting measures.
“In the case of the $20 bill, that timetable is consistent with the previous administration and has not been changed. ... The suggestion that this process is being stalled is completely erroneous.”
Len Olijar, director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, said in a statement 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.” He added, “Everything remains on the table.”
Last month, Mnuchin announced that Tubman would not replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill next year, a plan initiated by the treasury secretary in the Obama administration that carried historical significance. Tubman, a 19th-century abolitionist leader, was destined to take the lofty position from the nation's seventh president, a slaveholder.
Earlier this week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, urged Mnuchin to reconsider the delay and to place Tubman's likeness on the $20 bill immediately.