Key Trump Quotes on Powell as Fed Remains in the Firing Line

August 22, 2019, 2:04 PM UTC

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has been publicly criticized by President Donald Trump for raising interest rates in 2018 and shrinking its balance sheet. Trump said the steps will stifle the economy’s growth, and continued to attack the U.S. central bank even after it cut rates in July and halted the run-off of its securities holdings.

Powell has avoided direct comment but has repeatedly stressed the importance of the Fed’s independence from political pressure and its commitment to transparency and accountability to Congress.

Here’s a timeline of key events and comments:

Aug. 22

The president turns Germany’s sale of negative-yield 30-year bonds into a criticism of the Fed, appearing to claim that the move gives Germany’s economic a competitive advantage.

“Germany sells 30 year bonds offering negative yields,” Trump tweeted. “Germany competes with the USA. Our Federal Reserve does not allow us to do what we must do. They put us at a disadvantage against our competition.”

Aug. 19

Trump repeats his call for a 100 basis-point Fed rate cut and a resumption of bond purchases, saying in a tweet “If that happened, our Economy would be even better, and the World Economy would be greatly and quickly enhanced-good for everyone!” He criticized “the horrendous lack of vision by Jay Powell” and also resumed complaints about the U.S. currency’s strength: “Our dollar is so strong that it is sadly hurting other parts of the world.”

Aug. 14

Trump tweets “China is not our problem, though Hong Kong is not helping. Our problem is with the Fed. Raised too much & too fast. Now too slow to cut” during a day that U.S. stocks fell 3% on fears the U.S.-China trade war would tip the economy into recession. He called Powell “clueless.”

Aug. 8

The president says he’s not thrilled by the “very strong dollar ” and blamed the central bank for the currency’s performance: “The Fed’s high interest rate level, in comparison to other countries, is keeping the dollar high, making it more difficult for our great manufacturers.”

July 31

Fed cuts rates for the first time in a decade and announces it will stop shrinking the balance sheet on Aug. 1, two months ahead of schedule.

July 30

On the same morning Fed officials begin a two-day policy meeting, Trump tells reporters he wants a “large cut” from the central bank, adding his demand that the Fed halt balance sheet runoffs immediately. “I’m just very disappointed in the Fed,” he said.

July 29

Trump assails central banks in the E.U. and China for easing policy, using that as grounds to attack the Fed. “In the meantime, and with very low inflation, our Fed does nothing — and probably will do very little by comparison. Too bad!” he says in a tweet.

July 26

The president tweets that 2.1% GDP growth in the second quarter is “not bad considering we have the very heavy weight of the Federal Reserve anchor wrapped around our neck.”

July 22

Trump urges the central bank to cut rates aggressively. “It is far more costly for the Federal Reserve to cut deeper if the economy actually does, in the future, turn down!” he tweeted. “Very inexpensive, in fact productive, to move now. The Fed raised & tightened far too much & too fast. In other words, they missed it (Big!). Don’t miss it again!”

July 19

Trump fired off multiple Fed-related tweets. “Because of the faulty thought process we have going for us at the Federal Reserve, we pay much higher interest rates than countries that are no match for us economically,” he said. “In other words, our interest costs are much higher than other countries, when they should be lower. Correct!”

Trump also reacted to speech delivered the prior day by New York Fed President John Williams. The speech initially gave the impression Williams favored cutting rates by a half-point, but the New York Fed later released a statement emphasizing the remarks were made in an “academic speech’ and “not about potential policy actions.”

Trump tweeted: “I like New York Fed President John Williams first statement much better than his second.”

July 5

“Our most difficult problem is not our competitors, it is the Federal Reserve,” Trump said in a late-night Twitter post. The Fed “raised rates too soon, too often,” and “doesn’t have a clue!” the president said.

July 5

The U.S. economy would grow more quickly if monetary policy were eased, Trump tells reporters. “If we had a Fed that would lower interest rates, we would be like a rocket ship,” he says. “We don’t have a Fed that knows what they’re doing.”

June 26

Trump says the U.S. would be better off if Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, were in charge of U.S. monetary policy instead of Powell.

June 24

Trump accuses the Fed of behaving like a “stubborn child” in refusing to cut interest rates as he attacks the central bank again for keeping credit too tight.

June 23

Trumps denies having threatened to demote Powell but insists he has the authority to do so, in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Trump repeated his criticism that the Fed was wrong to raise rates as much as it did in 2018.

June 20

Trump says he expects Powell will “eventually” cut interest rates, after again suggesting he could remove the central bank chief.

“He should have done it sooner,” Trump said. His comment came a day after the Fed ended a two-day policy meeting with a statement suggesting greater uncertainty in the economy could lead to a rate cut. “Can’t win it all. Eventually he’ll do what’s right,” Trump said.

June 19

Fed officials leave interest rates unchanged, but signal they may cut rates as early as July because of rising uncertainties around their economic outlook, linked to weakening inflation and the impact of ongoing trade disputes.

At a post-meeting press conference, Powell says, “I have a four-year term, and I fully intend to serve it.”

June 18

Bloomberg News reports the White House explored the legality of stripping Powell of his chairmanship and demoting him to a Fed governor. Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, subsequently says such a move isn’t under consideration.

Asked the same day whether he still wants to demote Powell, Trump tells reporters: “Well, let’s see what he does.”

June 14

In an interview with ABC News, Trump says the rate of economic growth in the U.S. would be “at least a point and a half higher” if the Fed had not raised interest rates so much in 2018.

Asked about Powell, Trump says: “He’s my pick — and I disagree with him entirely.”

June 11

The president tweets: “The Fed interest rate way too high, added to ridiculous quantitative tightening! They don’t have a clue!” Trump also notes the U.S. has “VERY LOW INFLATION,” calling it a “beautiful thing!”

June 10

Trump complains in an interview on CNBC Television that the Fed doesn’t listen to him, contrasting that with the control China’s leader wields over that country’s central bank.

“They devalue their currency. They have for years. It’s put them at a tremendous advantage,” Trump said of the Chinese. “We don’t have that advantage because we have a Fed that doesn’t lower interest rates.”

May 14

Trump says Fed should help offset damage to U.S. economy being caused by tariffs to “match” stimulus efforts taken by China’s government.

“China will be pumping money into their system and probably reducing interest rates,” the president tweeted. “If the Federal Reserve ever did a ‘match,’ it would be game over, we win!”

May 1

Fed leaves interest rates unchanged.

April 30

Trump calls for a drastic cut in interest rates to boost the already-healthy U.S. economy. “Our Federal Reserve has incessantly lifted interest rates, even though inflation is very low,” he says in a tweet. In a subsequent post, he adds the economy could soar “like a rocket” if the Fed lowered its benchmark rate by a full percentage point and resumed bond purchases.

April 26

With the Commerce Department reporting that first-quarter GDP grew at an annualized pace of 3.2%, the president says the figure would have been higher if not for the Fed. “If we kept the same interest rates and the same quantitative easing that the previous administration had, that 3.2 would have been much higher.”

April 14

Trump tweets: “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%.”

April 11

The same evening Powell reassured Democratic lawmakers he would not give in to political pressure, he received an unscheduled phone call from the president. The Fed released no details of the conversation other than to say it lasted five minutes.

April 10

Following a roundtable meeting in San Antonio, Texas, the president says his supporters would prefer a Fed chair who doesn’t raise interest rates.

April 5

Trump tells reporters the Fed should cut interest rates. “I think they really slowed us down. There’s no inflation.”

He adds that instead of reducing the size of their balance sheet, Fed officials should also be buying additional securities as a way to boost the economy. If the Fed followed his advice, “you would see a rocket ship,” he says.

April 4

Trump tweets: “Despite the unnecessary and destructive actions taken by the Fed, the economy is looking very strong.”

March 29

Trumps tweets that the U.S. economy “would be in a better place” if the central bank “not mistakenly raised interest rates, especially since there is very little inflation.” The posting followed comments the same day from White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow calling on the Fed to “immediately” cut rates by half a percentage point.

March 22

Trump tells tells Fox Business Network the U.S. economy would have grown faster if the Fed hadn’t raised interest rates. “Hopefully now we won’t do the tightening,” he said.

March 20

Fed leaves interest rates unchanged.

March 8

Powell receives a phone call from Trump the same day concerns about the U.S. jobs market helped send stocks to their biggest weekly drop of the year.

March 2

In a wide-ranging speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump took a swipe at Powell without naming him. After saying the U.S. dollar was too strong, Trump referred to “a gentleman that likes raising interest rates in the Fed, we have a gentleman that loves quantitative tightening in the Fed, we have a gentleman that likes a very strong dollar in the Fed.”

Feb. 4

Trump hosts Powell, Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for dinner at the White House to discuss the U.S. economy. Immediately following the gathering, the Fed releases a statement saying Powell “did not discuss his expectations for monetary policy” with the president.

Jan. 30

Fed leaves interest rates unchanged.

Dec. 25, 2018

In Christmas Day remarks to reporters at the White House, Trump responds to a question about Powell: “Well, we’ll see. They’re raising interest rates too fast. That’s my opinion. But I certainly have confidence. But I think it will straighten. They’re raising interest rates too fast because they think the economy is so good. But I think that they will get it pretty soon.”

Dec. 24, 2018

“The only problem our economy has is the Fed,” Trump tweets. “They don’t have a feel for the Market, they don’t understand necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders. The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch – he can’t putt!”

Dec. 23, 2018

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s pick for the next White House chief of staff, says he’d spoken to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and that Trump “now realizes he does not have the ability” to fire a Fed chairman.

Dec. 22, 2018

Mnuchin, in a posting on Twitter, quotes Trump as telling him, “I never suggested firing Chairman Jay Powell, nor do I believe I have the right to do so.”

Dec. 21, 2018

Bloomberg News reports that Trump has discussed firing Powell as his frustration intensified following the most recent interest-rate hike and months of stock-market losses.

Dec. 19, 2018

The Fed raises interest rates by a quarter percentage point.

Dec. 17, 2018

“It is incredible,” Trump tweets, “that with a very strong dollar and virtually no inflation, the outside world blowing up around us, Paris is burning and China way down, the Fed is even considering yet another interest rate hike. Take the Victory!”

Dec. 11, 2018

Trump tells Reuters “I think it would be foolish” for the Fed to raise interest rates. “But what can I say?” he says. “You have to understand, we’re fighting some trade battles and we’re winning. But I need accommodation too.”

He calls Powell a “good man,” but adds that “he’s trying to do what he thinks is best. I disagree with him I think he’s being too aggressive, far too aggressive, actually far too aggressive.”

Nov. 27, 2018

Trump tells the Washington Post he’s “not even a little bit happy with my selection of Jay.” On what threatens the U.S. economy, Trump adds, “I think the Fed is a much bigger problem than China.”

“I’m doing deals and I’m not being accommodated by the Fed,” the president says. “They’re making a mistake because I have a gut and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.”

Nov. 26, 2018

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump says “I think the Fed right now is a much bigger problem than China. I think it’s — I think it’s incorrect what they’re doing. I don’t like what they’re doing. I don’t like the $50 billion. I don’t like what they’re doing in terms of interest rates. And they’re not being accommodative at all. And I’m doing trade deals, and they’re great trade deals, but the Fed is not helping.”

Nov. 20, 2018

The president tells reporters that the central bank is a “problem” and that he would “like to see the Fed with a lower interest rate.”

Oct. 23, 2018

The president tells The Wall Street Journal he “maybe” regrets appointing Powell to head the Fed. He declines to say what circumstances would cause him to want to remove Powell, but adds, “I’m not going to fire him.”

Trump says he was intentionally sending a direct message to Powell that he wanted lower interest rates, even as he acknowledges that the central bank is an independent entity.

Oct. 16, 2018

In a Fox Business Network interview, Trump calls the Fed his “biggest threat,” again criticizing the central bank for endangering economic growth through interest-rate hikes. Trump says the central bank is “independent so I don’t speak to them, but I’m not happy with what he’s doing because it’s going too fast.”

Oct. 10, 2018

Trump slams Fed policy during a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, complaining “they’re so tight. I think the Fed has gone crazy.” He later says during a telephone interview on Fox News that the central bank was “going loco” for raising rates.

Sept. 26, 2018

The Fed raises interest rates by a quarter percentage point.

“We are doing great as a country,” Trump says at a press conference in New York. “Unfortunately they just raised interest rates a little bit because we are doing so well. I am not happy about that.”

Aug. 30, 2018

“We are not being accommodated,” Trump says in an interview with Bloomberg News in the Oval Office. “I don’t like that.”

“That being said,” he continues, “I’m not sure the currency should be controlled by a politician.” He also says he doesn’t regret appointing Powell.

Aug. 20, 2018

In private remarks at a fund-raiser on Long Island Trump says he expected Powell to be a cheap-money Fed chairman and lamented to wealthy Republican donors that his nominee instead had raised interest rates, according to three people present.

July 20, 2018

Trump turns to social media to take another shot at the Fed. “China, the European Union and others have been manipulating their currencies and interest rates lower, while the U.S. is raising rates while the dollars gets stronger and stronger with each passing day — taking away our big competitive edge,” Trump tweets. “The United States should not be penalized because we are doing so well.”

July 19, 2018

The president makes his first critical remarks about the Fed. “I’m not thrilled” the central bank is raising borrowing costs and potentially slowing the economy, he says in an interview with CNBC. “I don’t like all of this work that we’re putting into the economy and then I see rates going up.”

June 13, 2018

The Fed raises rates by a quarter point.

March 21, 2018

The Fed raises rates by a quarter point.

Dec. 13, 2017

The Fed raises rates by a quarter point.

Nov. 2, 2017

At the Rose Garden ceremony marking his nomination by Trump to the chairmanship, Powell is careful to slip into his remarks a reference to the Fed’s independence: “I strongly share that sense of mission and am committed to making decisions with objectivity and based on the best available evidence, in the longstanding tradition of monetary policy independence.” Trump says he picked Powell because, “He’s strong. He’s committed. He’s smart.”

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