The Treasury Department was “well underway” with “extensive work” on an Obama-era plan to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, though Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s recently claimed that the redesigned note wouldn’t be unveiled until 2028 because of “technical issues,” The New York Times reported Friday.
The Times said work on the redesigned $20 bill started before President Donald Trump took office, and that a “basic design already on paper most likely could have satisfied the goal of unveiling” the redesigned note next year. The paper said it obtained an image of the new note from a former department official, which “depicts Tubman in a dark coat with a wide collar and a white scarf.”
According to the paper, the design “was completed in late 2016.”
The report comes several weeks after Mnuchin, during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, punted the effort to redesign the bill to contain the Underground Railroad hero’s likeness, saying he is focused primarily on anti-counterfeiting and security measures. He also said he anticipates the new $20 bill would not come out until 2028. The secretary also said decisions about the imagery on the $20 bill “will not be an issue that comes up until most likely 2026.”
The Times said a current department employee told the paper they “personally viewed a metal engraving plate and a digital image of a Tubman $20 bill while it was being reviewed by engravers and Secret Service officials as recently as May 2018.” The paper added that the employee said the design “appeared to be far along in the process.”
The paper said both current and former department employees said Mnuchin decided to delay plans to redesign the $20 bill “to avoid the possibility” that Trump, who has previously expressed admiration for President Andrew Jackson, who currently appears on the bill, would stop the plans and “create even more controversy.”
In an interview last week, Mnuchin told the Times that “this speculation that we’ve slowed down the process is just not the case.” Mnuchin also said that security features determine how quickly currency is changed and denied that politics was playing a role in the process, according to the paper.
The Times said Lydia Washington, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, confirmed that “preliminary designs” had been created after Mnuchin’s predecessor, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, proposed putting Tubman on the $20 bill.
Neither the bureau nor the department immediately responded to CNN’s request for comment on Friday.
Still, though, the paper said it was unclear whether a new bill containing Tubman’s likeness would be issued under Mnuchin, citing a statement from his spokeswoman, Monica Crowley, that said the redesign was on schedule but made no mention of Tubman.
Mnuchin said in a January 2018 interview that “we haven’t made any decision as to whether we’ll change the bill, or won’t change the bill,” and a Treasury Department spokesperson told CNN this year that Mnuchin’s position remained the same.
CNN’s Eli Watkins contributed to this report.