Treasury Department watchdog to review delay in Harriet Tubman redesign of $20 bill

The Treasury Department inspector general's office said it will look into why the Trump administration delayed the redesign of the $20 bill, which would have replaced the image of President Andrew Jackson with one of abolitionist and runaway slave Harriet Tubman.

In a Friday letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Acting Inspector General Rich Delmar said his office would consider the matter as part of another audit that was about to get underway.

Schumer had asked the watchdog to look into the department's decision to delay the redesign, "including any involvement by the White House." In his original letter, he noted that "during his campaign, President Trump referred to efforts to replace President Jackson’s likeness on the front of the $20 note as 'pure political correctness.'”

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The Senate minority leader said Monday he was "pleased" by the department's decision to conduct the review and added that he hoped it would be "conducted in an expeditious fashion." Delmar's letter indicated that the review would take "approximately" 10 months.

Harriet Tubman, pictured circa 1885.

Harriet Tubman, pictured circa 1885. (US National Park Service)

"There are no women, there are no people of color on our paper currency today, even though they make up a significant majority of our population" Schumer added. "The motivation for the Trump administration's decision to delay the release of the new note has not been credibly explained, and the inspector general's review must get to the bottom of this."

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The redesign initially was scheduled for 2020, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last month it would be delayed so the $10 bill and the $50 bill could be redesigned first for security reasons to make it harder for the bills to be counterfeited.

"It is my responsibility now to focus on what is the issue of counterfeiting and the security features," Mnuchin told lawmakers at the time. "The ultimate decision on the redesign will most likely be another secretary’s down the road.”

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Last week, Mnuchin said suggestions that the process was being delayed deliberately were "completely erroneous."

Tubman escaped from slavery in 1849 and played a key role in the Underground Railroad. Historians said she helped guide over 300 slaves to freedom and also served as a spy and a scout for the Union Army during the Civil War.

Fox News' Chad Pergram, Louis Casiano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.