Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell spoke by telephone for five minutes with President Donald Trump on April 11, the same evening he reassured Democratic lawmakers he would preserve the independence of the central bank from political pressure.
Powell’s calendar for April, released Friday, showed a call with the president from 9 p.m. to 9:05 p.m. It also reflected Powell’s scheduled appearance at a Democratic Party retreat in Leesburg, Virginia.
Three days after Trump made his unscheduled call to Powell, the president resumed his ongoing public criticisms of the central bank, tweeting: “If the Fed had done its job properly, which it has not, the Stock Market would have been up 5,000 to 10,000 additional points, and GDP would have been well over 4% instead of 3%.”
This is the second call between the pair reported by the Fed. Powell received a call from Trump on March 8 as concerns that day about the U.S. job market helped send stocks to their biggest weekly drop of the year.
The president has been on an offensive against the Fed for almost a year, breaking a three-decade White House tradition of avoiding public criticism of monetary policy out of respect for the central bank’s independence.
His frustration over Fed rate hikes in 2018 led him to discuss firing Powell, Bloomberg reported Dec. 21. Trump has since urged the central bank to cut rates by a full percentage point and resume bond purchases, invoking the Fed’s emergency policy that was deeply unpopular among many of his own Republicans.
Last month the president called on the Fed to “match” what he said China would do to offset economic hardship being caused by tariffs as he sought to draft the U.S. central bank into his simmering trade war.
Powell has avoided directly responding to Trump’s attacks, but has repeatedly stressed the importance of the Fed’s independence from political pressure and its commitment to transparency and accountability to Congress.
Nonetheless, the Fed has been forced by a recent deterioration of the economic outlook and escalating trade tensions to consider whether and when it may have to cut interest rates. Powell this week opened the door to easing policy, saying the Fed “will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion.’’
Fed officials are scheduled to meet in Washington June 18-19.
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