Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin moved to reassure financial markets that Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell wouldn’t be ousted, after a report said President Donald Trump has repeatedly discussed firing the central bank chief in recent days.
Mnuchin said in a pair of tweets on Saturday evening that he’d spoken with the president about the matter, and quoted Trump saying he didn’t believe he had the authority to remove the central bank chief.
Key lawmakers and market strategists spent Saturday urging Trump not to act against Powell. Mnuchin’s tweets followed a brief, less-definitive statement three hours earlier from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who said she wasn’t “aware” of “any plans” to remove Powell.
“I have spoken with the President and he said ‘I totally disagree with Fed policy. I think the increasing of interest rates and the shrinking of the Fed portfolio is an absolute terrible thing to do at this time...,” Mnuchin tweeted.
The White House had otherwise been silent for 18 hours since Bloomberg News reported the discussions.
“I never suggested firing Chairman Jay Powell, nor do I believe I have the right to do so,” Mnuchin quoted Trump as saying. Trump didn’t address Powell’s fate.
Trump has discussed firing Powell many times in the past few days as his frustration with the central banker intensified following Wednesday’s interest rate increase and intensifying stock market losses.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Sunday echoed Mnuchin’s comments.
“He put out a tweet last night specifically saying that he now realises he does not have the ability,’’ said Mulvaney, who’s set to become the acting White House chief of staff.