President Donald Trump on Tuesday opted against giving a public vote of confidence to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as the central bank mulls a possible interest rate cut in coming weeks.
“Let’s see what he does,” the president said, appearing to suggest Powell’s future as chairman could be linked to whether the Fed answers his call and slashes rates.
The president — who insists he is not, as Democrats and other critics say, putting unprecedented pressure directly on the bank from the Oval Office — said he merely wants to be given a “level playing field” from Powell and his colleagues. “So far I haven’t been.”
Trump has suggested past Federal Reserve boards slashed rates that helped then-President Barack Obama by boosting the economy and, by extension, the 44th president’s political standing.
Earlier Tuesday, chief White House economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow insisted to reporters that the central bank is “independent” despite Trump’s criticism and repeated calls for a rate cut.
“The bond market has been saying for quite a while that the Fed should cut rates. Target rate. They’ve got a couple of target rates, not just the interest rate,” Kudlow said, finding a way to agree with Trump by citing non-administration data.
“But the Fed is independent. I don’t want to get into that. They’ll act in their own time, in their own way. they have a lot of things to consider,” Kudlow added.
Trump spoke to reporters, as presidential historian Martha Kumar calculates he has on about 80 occasions, on the White House’s South Lawn as he boarded Marine One. The president was on his way to Orlando’s Amway Center, home to the NBA’s Magic, for a campaign rally where he will announce his re-election bid.
A slew of polls show him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner, and some of that party’s other candidates there, in other crucial swing states and nationally. Even with other Democrats, polls suggests he would be in a virtual dead heat in a potential general election race.
In Florida, Trump is expected to make a hard push for the Sunshine State’s 29 electoral votes — and political analysts say it is hard to put together a 2020 Electoral College map in his favor that has the Democrat winning there.
His comments came a few hours after he announced — via a tweet — that suddenly embattled acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is stepping down and had withdrawn his nomination to take the job permanently. Shanahan is facing public backlash after it became public that he and his then-wife nine years ago were involved in a domestic dispute after which they both told police they punched one another.
The president is installing Army Secretary Mark Esper as his new acting defense secretary, just the latest Cabinet leader to carry the acting tag, which Trump has said gives him an undefined “flexibility.”