President Donald Trump does not intend to appoint National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn to lead the Federal Reserve, three people familiar with the matter said.
Trump said in at least one private meeting last week that Cohn has no chance of being Fed chair, according to a person present for the remarks.
Trump has privately told advisers that Cohn is doing a great job in his current role and that he wants to keep him at the White House through congressional consideration of his proposed tax overhaul, according to a person familiar with the conversations.
“No decision has been made and no candidate has been ruled out but Gary’s role is too crucial to getting tax reform done,” a senior administration official familiar with the president’s thinking said. It may be “too important for him to continue to be the lead, for him to announce a change at this time.”
Cohn is likely to leave the White House soon after Congress disposes with the tax plan, two people said. Cohn declined to comment.
Trump has been contemplating a shortlist of potential Fed candidates assembled by his advisers that included the current chair, Janet Yellen, Fed Board Governor Jerome Powell, Stanford University economist John Taylor, and former Fed Governor Kevin Warsh, in addition to Cohn.
Cohn’s relationship with Trump suffered after the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. president criticized the U.S. president in August for his response to violent protests by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. One person familiar with the relationship also said that Trump has been frustrated with the pace of the tax overhaul.
But in public and in private in the last week, Trump has left out Warsh and Cohn when discussing his decision. He said in an interview with Fox Business Network broadcast Sunday that he was deciding between Yellen, Powell, Taylor and “a couple others,” without naming them. On Tuesday, in a closed-door meeting with Republican senators, he asked for a show of hands in support of Yellen, Powell or Taylor -- but not Cohn or Warsh, according to Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who participated in the meeting.
Scott said that Taylor appeared to win the president’s ad hoc straw poll.
Trump told Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs that he’s narrowed his search to two or three people, in an interview to be broadcast Wednesday.
Within the White House, there’s been debate about whether Cohn is qualified to lead the Fed, one person involved in the discussions said. The last three central bank chiefs were Ph.D. economists, an academic credential Cohn lacks. While Trump’s advisers agree that Cohn is a formidable personality qualified to run a large bank, the job of Fed chair demands an ability to generate consensus among the board of governors, and there is doubt about whether Cohn is well suited to such a role, the person said.
Cohn made it onto Trump’s shortlist thanks to his grasp of regulatory issues and his decisiveness as a leader at Goldman Sachs and in the White House, the person said. Trump also publicly floated the idea of appointing Cohn as Fed chairman himself, in a July interview with the Wall Street Journal -- shortly after which Cohn recused himself from advising the president on the search, according to people familiar with his decision.
Warsh v. Quarles
Warsh’s consideration for Fed chair meanwhile has rekindled an old feud between him and Fed Governor Randal Quarles, who was sworn in this month as vice chairman of bank supervision. Quarles has told friends that he doesn’t think Warsh is qualified to lead the world’s most powerful central bank, according to people familiar with his remarks.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been assisting Trump with the Fed chair search, is aware of Quarles’s concerns and also doesn’t support Warsh for the job, two people familiar with his thinking have said.
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