Harriet Tubman
Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty)

When he “delayed” replacing Donald Trump fave and slave owner President Andrew Jackson’s face on the $20 bill with that of freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin swore before Congress that “technical” issues concerning new security features on U.S. bills were the reason.

But on Friday, the New York Times reported that it had obtained a mock-up of a Tubman bill that was created in 2016—long before Trump took office and appointed Mnuchin head of Treasury:

And the design, which features a representation of Tubman wearing a top coat and neck scarf, seems so far along, it raises questions about just how “technical” the issues with the bill could have been, the Times notes.

As the Times explains:

[...] work on the new $20 note began before Mr. Trump took office, and the basic design already on paper most likely could have satisfied the goal of unveiling a note bearing Tubman’s likeness on next year’s centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. An image of a new $20 bill, produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and obtained by The New York Times from a former Treasury Department official, depicts Tubman in a dark coat with a wide collar and a white scarf.

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There’s even an actual metal engraving plate of the Tubman bill, a current Engraving bureau employee told the Times, adding that “the design appeared to be far along in the process.”

So what’s the holdup on the Obama-era initiative to honor one of the most famed conductors on the Underground Railroad by placing her likeness on the $20 bill?

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Mnuchin is sticking to his story that “technical” issues were the only cause.

“Let me assure you, this speculation that we’ve slowed down the process is just not the case,” Mnuchin told the Times last week while visiting Japan.

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Right.

Mnuchin has delayed announcing the design of the new $20 bill until 2026—six years after the 2020 deadline Obama had set, and long after Trump will have left office.

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“They’re working as fast as they can,” Mnuchin said of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

But perhaps in a perverse, opposite-world manner, could it be that Mnuchin has done the push to put Tubman on the $20 bill a favor?

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As the Times put it:

Current and former department officials say Mr. Mnuchin chose the delay to avoid the possibility that Mr. Trump would cancel the plan outright.