LOUISVILLE — Inside the famed vaults at Fort Knox, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held a 27-pound gold bar in his hands Monday as part of the first civilian delegation to see most of the country’s bullion reserves in more than 40 years.
But being surrounded by more than $186 billion worth of gold was no sweat for one of the country’s most powerful politicians
“It’s not even the annual funding level for some of our large departments in the federal government,” he said.
McConnell was part of a delegation of Kentucky politicians allowed inside the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox for the first time since 1974. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin initiated the visit, along with U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie and Gov. Matt Bevin.
The depository holds more than 147 million ounces of gold, which puts its market value at more than $186 billion. While primarily known as a vault for gold, the depository also held the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution during World War II.
Mnuchin said it was the first time Fort Knox opened its vaults to outsiders since a Congressional delegation and some journalists were let in to view the gold for the first time in 1974. McConnell said he never had thought about visiting Fort Knox before, but jumped at the chance when Mnuchin offered to take him.
“It just kind of came up as a result of a casual conversation,” McConnell said.
A movie producer before becoming treasury secretary, Mnuchin told a group of Louisville business leaders earlier in the day it was important for him to see the gold to attest that “it is part of our national assets.”
“I assume the gold is still there,” he said. “It would really be quite a movie if we walked in and there was no gold.”
In an interview, McConnell said he could not say much about the visit for security reasons. But Bevin, speaking on WHAS radio, divulged a few more details. He said it took “quite a bit of time” to get in and out of the facility, and said officials had to cut a seal to open the vault for them.
In addition to the gold bricks, Bevin said he got to hold a 1933 double eagle, a $20 gold coin that never was circulated. Bevin, who said he collected coins as a child, compared it to “seeing a leprechaun on a unicorn.”
“All I will say is that it is freakishly well secured,” he said. “The gold is safe.”