WASHINGTON – Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has said he intends to serve his full four-year term as head of the Federal Reserve, after the White House explored ways of removing him from the job amid criticism from President Donald Trump.
“I think the law is clear that I have a four year term, and I fully intend to serve it,” Powell said at a press conference in Washington on Wednesday after policymakers met to discuss interest rates. They left the benchmark rate unchanged, while signaling that a cut has become more likely.
Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that the White House in February had examined the legality of stripping the chairmanship from Powell and demoting him back to a Fed governor. In December, there were reports that Trump had discussed firing Powell amid mounting frustration over interest-rate increases last year.
The president has repeatedly criticized Powell — his own pick as Fed chair — for not doing enough to boost the economy. Trump has called for lower interest rates as he seeks to offset the headwinds created by his trade war with China, and create a favorable backdrop for his re-election campaign next year.
Trump told ABC News Friday that he disagreed with Powell “entirely,” adding that “if we had a different person in the Federal Reserve that wouldn’t have raised interest rates so much,” economic growth would have been stronger. He returned to the fray as the Fed meeting got under way Tuesday, calling out the European Central Bank for weakening the euro by pledging policy stimulus.
In addition to Powell, Trump has picked three of the other four current members of the Fed Board in Washington. They all voted in favor of the Fed’s last interest-rate increase in December.
The president’s attacks on the Fed are a departure from almost three decades of caution in the White House about making public comments on monetary policy, out of respect for the independence of the central bank.