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It’s Almost Over For Jerome Powell: Trump Says He Has Authority To Replace Fed Chair

If the Fed doesn't cut rates in July, Powell is out as chair.

On Wednesday, during the post-FOMC press conference, Jerome Powell was asked at least twice to comment on recent Fed criticism emanating from Donald Trump.

In both cases, Powell demurred, or if that’s not quite right, it’s fair to say the Fed chair did his best to avoid going on the record with anything other than perfunctory comments.

“I don’t discuss elected officials, publicly or privately”, he said, when asked by a reporter from Politico if there will ever come a time when it’s appropriate for the Fed to make a statement in defense of its independence amid withering criticism emanating from the White House. Asked what he would do if Trump tried to remove him, Powell simply reiterated that the law is clear – he has a four-year term and he intends to serve it.

One person who isn’t so sure about that latter bit is Donald Trump.

On Wednesday evening, just hours after Powell reiterated that he intends to serve his full term, Bloomberg reported that according to people familiar with what’s going on inside Trump’s “very large brain”, he believes he does in fact have the authority to replace Powell.

“In Trump’s line of thinking, he could demote Powell to be a board governor, but isn’t planning to do so right now”, Jennifer Jacobs says, adding that “White House lawyers think there is a way to follow through with a demotion if that’s what the president wants, but there has been some disagreement in the Counsel’s office.”

Trump’s apparent insistence on the feasibility of demoting Powell was communicated to people close to the president “as recently as Wednesday”, Jacobs said.

In other words, it sounds like Trump was responding directly to Powell’s contention that the law is on his side. Trump is essentially pulling a Judge Dredd (“I am the law”).

This latest bit of gossip only adds to the tension following Tuesday’s “big league” news that the White House counsel, at Trump’s urging, considered options on removing Powell back in February.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the White House is leaking this on purpose to pile ever more pressure on monetary policy. Trump has used this strategy before (i.e., leaking plans to fire someone and/or the pretext for doing so to the press) in order to bring people to heel.

If that’s the case here, it certainly appears to be working. Powell was as dovish as he could possibly be without actually cutting rates on Wednesday, and the idea that he and the rest of the Fed aren’t feeling any pressure from Trump is laughable. After all, Trump had Powell and Clarida for dinner earlier this year (steaks, of course) and has called the Fed chair on the phone at least twice.

On Tuesday evening, Trump explicitly tied Powell’s future as chair to Wednesday’s proceedings.

In case it’s not clear enough: If the Fed doesn’t cut rates in July, Powell is out as Fed chair. That is just all there is to this discussion.

And if you’re inclined to suggest that Trump won’t get away with that, I would politely ask you to tell me who, exactly, is going to stop him? Congress? Steve Mnuchin? William Barr?

Give me a break.


 

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13 comments on “It’s Almost Over For Jerome Powell: Trump Says He Has Authority To Replace Fed Chair

  1. Another step down the authoritarian slope — and I feel fine. Thank you gutless Republican pukes in Congress. #MAGA

  2. 40,000 headmen

    I don’t agree with your contention that “Powell was dovish as he could possibly be without actually cutting rates on Wednesday…”. I agree with Peter Cecchini of Cantor Fitzgerald who said that he didn’t find the statement all that dovish. I agree with his assessment that “the statement was quite balanced”. As Cecchini pointed out, Powell used the term “trends” to describe what he was looking for in terms of data that would affect monetary policy decisions. In my opinion, the market misread Powell. The Fed Chairman is not going to be so quick to start the journey back to zero as the market believes and/or wants to believe.

    • with all due respect, you and Cantor are wrong. Hatzius just threw in the towel too. it’s over. Trump has successfully commandeered US monetary policy

      • Anonymous

        Who will stop Scummo? The House and a Byzantine slew of lawsuits, to begin with. There may even be enough GOPer gimps in the Senate bc Babyman is in trouble in all swing states and anything more they permit now will become the Dem president’s prerogative.

        Besides, WHO is actually going physically make Powell go? You think Americans (or even a number of GOPers) will let Scummo try to physically have Powell blocked from his office? No. So courts it will be – and Scummo will be at 25% approval by the time the dilatory legal process plays out; why? Because the trumpCrash IS coming within the next 2 o or 3 months and the red state rabble is gonna be crushed by it.

      • 40,000 headmen

        If you listen to the 3 people who are steering the committee, Powell, Clarida, and Williams, they aren’t hitting the panic button at all. You are heeding the pundits and not the policy makers. If you saw Steve Liesman’s interview of Vice Chair Clarida, then you would have heard him say 3 times during that interview “The economy is in a good place”. Absurdly enough, Kelly Evans stated at the end of that interview “Sounds like a rate cut is on the table for June”. It’s ‘consensus by contagion’ as I like to say, and with all due respect, I think that you are caught up in the contagion.

  3. Harvey Cotton

    Almost every day brings a fresh national humiliation. The entire edifice of our political structure was built on the premise that people jealous horde power, and therefore the system of government that maximizes liberty for the people is one where power is diffused vertically in the federal structure and horizontally with three co-equal branches of government. Over time, even more safeguards were put in with bodies set up that were supposed to be technocratic and independent of political pressure. These institutions were supposed to be sacrosanct. If there were some brilliant Machiavellian tactician who through charisma, guile, political appointments, secret backroom deals, and cleverness was able to accrue the level of power necessary to overwhelm the Senate, Justice Department, Fed, and anyone else to achieve tyranny, well you just throw your hands up. What can you do? The Founding Fathers tried, and we had a goo-, eh, okay run. But Trump is able to destroy the sinews of our political culture and institutions as a subnormal idiot who falls ass-backwards into every triumph and the instrument of his power…is mean tweets? This is how we lose? Not guns. Not an apocalyptic plague. A vicious Twitter feed. How humiliating.

  4. I don’t know anything about Jerome Powell. I don’t have any personal insights into whether he is responding to pressure or just doing what he thinks is right. But putting myself in his shoes, I just don’t think he needs this job. Even if Powell is acting out of personal interest, I think he would rather leave the job being known as the person who was trying to do the right thing. He should prefer that to being considered the Fed Chair who tried to keep his job by being Donald Trump’s servant. Isn’t his future much brighter as the former than the latter? Not to mention his conscience? For the moment, it is difficult to look at anything Powell is doing or saying, and think that he is acting outside the bounds of what an independent Fed Chair would or should do. My best guess is that he is trying to follow what he believes is the best course, and probably hates the possible appearance that Trump is pushing him around.

  5. Love your comment, Harvey. It’s enough to make a person give up. Or drink.

  6. Is it possible that the Ruskies have something on Mitch too?

    • I just want to know what the hell is wrong with Lindsey Graham. not that i was ever a Lindsey fan in the first place, but my god. he’s off the deep end

  7. Anymouse

    Quote of the Day from Jim Grant:
    “Trump may not be able to fire Powell, but Powell can certainly fire Trump.”

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