President-elect Donald Trump was already closing a deal to keep U.S. workers employed at the Carrier air conditioner plant in Indiana as he stacked his Cabinet with Wall Street titans Wednesday, creating the most business-friendly White House that America has seen in a long time.
Trump transition officials boasted that the Carrier deal was an early down payment on his campaign promises to restore manufacturing jobs and that his team — namely Treasury secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin and commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross — had the business savvy necessary to help kick the U.S. economy into overdrive.
Mr. Trump was assembling a “Cabinet of winners,” said Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller.
“The key theme with all the announcements today is bringing into the administration the framers of the president-elect’s economic populist message about how we make good deals for American workers [and] how we are going to improve the lives of American families,” he told reporters on a conference call.
The moves were in keeping with Mr. Trump’s agenda of cutting taxes, slashing regulations and making better trade deals in an effort to boost business, jobs and the economy.
So far, businesses are responding favorably to the president-elect.
Since Mr. Trump’s upset election win Nov. 8, a rally across global markets has pushed the Dow Jones industrial average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite simultaneously into record territory.
Still, the nominations of Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Ross, who are Wall Street billionaires, quickly met opposition from Democratic lawmakers and liberal activists who accused Mr. Trump of breaking his vow to stand up to Wall Street and fight the corrupting influences of special interests.
Mr. Mnuchin took the brunt of the criticism because of his 17-year career at Goldman Sachs and his role in the housing crisis.
His firm, Dune Capital Management, teamed with other investors in 2009 to buy failed mortgage lender IndyMac, one of the biggest casualties of the housing bust, and rename it OneWest. By the time OneWest was sold to CIT Group in 2015, it faced a slew of lawsuits accusing it of fraudulent home foreclosure practices.
“President-elect Trump is handing over the keys to the same players who drove our economy into a ditch,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “Hardworking American families deserve a Treasury secretary who will place their interests above those of Wall Street.”
Mrs. Pelosi never spoke out, however, against numerous members of the Obama administration with ties to Wall Street, such as Mark A. Patterson, a former Goldman Sachs managing director who served as Treasury chief of staff from 2009 until 2015.
Mrs. Pelosi’s office did not respond to questions about her newfound opposition to Wall Street resumes.
The liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has spoken out against Wall Street’s influence on both sides of the aisle, also took issue with Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Ross.
“Ross is a Wall Street vulture who made billions by slashing jobs, shredding pensions, stripping health care from thousands of workers, and rolling back safety regulations at his companies which caused miners to die,” the campaign committee said in a statement.
Mr. Ross, known for turning around flagging companies, has been an economic adviser to Mr. Trump and helped craft his message on trade, which was a driving force for his presidential run.
“Wilbur Ross is a champion of American manufacturing and knows how to help companies succeed,” Mr. Trump said when announcing the nomination. “Most importantly, he is one of the greatest negotiators I have ever met, and that comes from me, the author of ‘The Art of the Deal.’”
Mr. Trump pointed to Mr. Mnuchin’s successful turnaround of IndyMac as evidence of his financial acumen.
“He purchased IndyMac Bank for $1.6 billion and ran it very professionally, selling it for $3.4 billion plus a return of capital. That’s the kind of people I want in my administration representing our country,” he said.
Mr. Mnuchin, who advised Mr. Trump on his tax reform plan, said overhauling the tax code would be the top priority.
“This will be the largest tax change since Reagan,” he said on CNBC. “We are going to cut corporate taxes, which will bring huge amounts of jobs back to the United States.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Mnuchin would continue a tradition of Treasury secretaries with Goldman Sachs experience. Robert Rubin in the Clinton administration and Henry Paulson in the George W. Bush administration also worked at the Wall Street powerhouse.
Mr. Trump also tapped Chicago Cubs owner Todd Ricketts for deputy commerce secretary. He is another billionaire known for turning around failing businesses, including the long-suffering Cubs, who won the World Series this year for the first time since 1908.
Mr. Trump plans to travel to the Carrier plant in Indiana on Thursday to announce the deal that stopped the company from moving 1,000 jobs to Mexico. During the campaign, Mr. Trump pledged that if elected, he would force Carrier to reconsider the move and possibly slap a 35 percent tariff on products it ships back into the U.S.
Mr. Trump will be accompanied by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, governor of Indiana.
The deal with United Technologies, which owns Carrier, hinged on the promise of lower taxes and fewer regulations under a Trump administration.
“Today’s announcement is possible because the incoming Trump-Pence administration has emphasized to us its commitment to support the business community and create an improved, more competitive U.S. business climate. The incentives offered by the state were an important consideration,” Carrier said in a statement.
Mr. Miller, the transition team spokesman, said the announcement speaks about “the strength of this incoming administration, its focus on jobs and the true commitment to make good on these campaign promises to not just bring back American jobs in the manufacturing sector but to make sure American jobs are staying here.”
Earlier this month, Mr. Trump persuaded the Ford Motor Co. to continue production of the luxury crossover Lincoln MKC at its plant in Louisville, Kentucky.
The plan to move production to Mexico was not expected to result in job losses at the Louisville assembly line, where workers also make the Ford Escape, but the decision to stay nevertheless was greeted as encouraging.
“We are encouraged that President-elect Trump and the new Congress will pursue policies that will improve U.S. competitiveness and make it possible to keep production of this vehicle here in the United States,” Ford said in a statement.
The White House dismissed the Carrier deal, saying it’s nice but pales in comparison with the jobs created under President Obama.
“If he is successful in doing that 804 more times, then he will meet the record of manufacturing jobs created in the United States while President Obama was in office,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
The president’s spokesman said the Carrier announcement was “good news” but noted that the action involved saving rather than creating jobs. By that measure, he said, Mr. Obama “saved” more than 1 million jobs in the auto industry bailout in 2009.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.