White House

Trump slams Fed after Kudlow denies White House trying to influence board

Consumer confidence data contradicts president’s claim that ‘USA optimism is very high!’

White House chief economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow listens to a reporter's question on Wednesday. (Matt Orlando/The Christian Science Monitor)

Donald Trump again publicly slammed the Federal Reserve on Thursday, a day after a top aide contended the president is not trying to influence the economic board’s decisions.

And despite declining consumer confidence numbers, Trump used a morning tweet to claim the country is optimistic about the state of the economy.

“Despite the unnecessary and destructive actions taken by the Fed, the Economy is looking very strong,” the president tweeted. It’s just the latest public broadside against a key entity that previous presidents have shied from criticizing in public, in part, to keep it out of the political sphere.

But, with the 45th president, most things become part of his political sphere.

Trump reportedly told Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell this during a recent phone conversation: “I guess I’m stuck with you.” Trump nominated Powell and praised the selection during a White House announcement ceremony, but has soured on him after the fed made moves like increasing the benchmark federal funds rate in December.

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The president has said if the Fed had left the rate untouched, the economy would be doing even better. He is eager to make a booming economy with its low unemployment rate a top 2020 reelection issue, and he blames the Fed for possibly dulling that message.

But his chief economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow, on Wednesday, tried to shoot down the notion that Trump’s public comments, and those reported from recent meetings with GOP senators, are meant to change the Fed’s decision-making.

“It's our point of view. The Fed is independent. The Fed is independent,” Kudlow told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor-sponsored breakfast. “We are not trying to compromise [its] independence.”

At one point, Kudlow described things he and the president say about the Federal Reserve are merely a “suggestion” here and there. About that rate hike, the White House aide did say Wednesday that “maybe they acted a little too hastily.”

But he repeatedly suggested the economic board remains independent.

“I also want to add the Fed will move when the Fed moves” on its own “timetable,” he said. “As you know, the president is not bashful with respect to points of view on a number of subjects, including monetary policy.

“My comments [and] the president’s comments were not meant to … pressure the Fed or interfere with their independence,” Kudlow contended.

Meantime, data suggests the second part of Trump’s tweet is a bit suspect. He wrote there “is little or no Inflation, and USA optimism is very high!”

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But consumer confidence has been falling, according to the Conference Board, an economic and business research firm based in New York.

The confidence level dipped to 124.1 in March, down from 131.4 in February.

Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement that “confidence has been somewhat volatile over the past few months, as consumers have had to weather volatility in the financial markets, a partial government shutdown and a very weak February jobs report.”

She suggested the economy is showing signs that should be troubling to the president and his campaign team.

“Despite these dynamics, consumers remain confident that the economy will continue expanding in the near term,” Franco said. “However, the overall trend in confidence has been softening since last summer, pointing to a moderation in economic growth.”

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