Donald Trump isn’t happy with Jerome Powell, and hasn’t been for going on 15 months.
The president’s first public broadside against the Fed was delivered during remarks to CNBC’s Joe Kernen in July of 2018, and he hasn’t let up since.
In an interview with Fox that aired on Thursday morning, Trump said Powell’s job is safe, but his demeanor and cadence didn’t inspire much confidence.
“It’s safe. Yeah, it’s safe.”, Trump said. “Sure, why not?”
One reason “why not”, is that Powell has an irritated real estate developer breathing down his neck, demanding rates be cut to “zero or less” in unhinged social media rants which have recently devolved into outright slander.
Normally, that’s the kind of thing a policymaker could safely ignore, but it’s a little harder when your antagonist also happens to be the President of the United States and reportedly ordered the White House counsel to look into the legality of demoting a Fed chair.
“Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again”, Trump seethed on Wednesday, just minutes after the Fed cut rates for the second time in two meetings. The president then accused Powell of having “no ‘guts’, no sense [and] no vision!”
“I’m very disappointed in him”, Trump went on to tell Fox. “I don’t think he knows how to play the game well”.
Trump unwittingly laid bare the source of the tension between the White House and the Fed. Monetary policy isn’t supposed to be a “game”. Rather, policy is conducted in keeping with a congressional mandate, and that mandate doesn’t include any reference to placating autocrats who have painted themselves into a corner in a multi-sided trade war.
Asked in Wednesday’s post-meeting press conference if he had any comment on Trump, Powell said “I do not”.
“I’m not gonna change my practice of not responding or addressing comments made by politicians”, Powell said.