Mulvaney and Mnuchin Say Trump Knows He Lacks Authority to Fire Fed Chairman

Mick Mulvaney, the incoming acting White House chief of staff, said on Sunday that President Trump does not believe he has the authority to the fire the Fed chairman, Jerome H. Powell, echoing comments made by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The statements came after news reports began circulating that Mr. Trump had asked aides whether he could fire Mr. Powell. The Fed has traditionally operated independently of the presidency as it seeks to keep inflation stable and the economy running at maximum employment.

Mr. Trump previously told advisers that Mr. Powell will “turn me into Hoover,” a reference to the Great Depression-era president Herbert Hoover. Mr. Trump has also repeatedly criticized the Fed for increasing interest rates, criticism the president doubled down on this weekend even as he denied suggesting firing Mr. Powell.

In two tweets on Saturday, Mr. Mnuchin said he had spoken with Mr. Trump and that the president had told him: “I totally disagree with Fed policy. I think the increasing of interest rates and the shrinking of the Fed portfolio is an absolute terrible thing to do at this time, especially in light of my major trade negotiations which are ongoing, but I never suggested firing Chairman Jay Powell, nor do I believe I have the right to do so.”

In response to a question about whether Mr. Trump believes he has the authority to fire Mr. Powell, Mr. Mulvaney said on ABC’s “This Week” that the president did not believe he did.

“I did speak with the treasury secretary last night about a bunch of things, including the lapse in appropriations and the shutdown, and he did mention that to me,” Mr. Mulvaney said.

Senator Richard Shelby, an Alaska Republican who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told Politico that Mr. Trump needs to be “very careful” how he proceeds with Mr. Powell.

“The Federal Reserve is set up to be independent of the presidency,” Mr. Shelby said. “Although I disagree with Powell at times, I’ve been on the Banking Committee longer than most people ever have, and I chaired it. I think the Federal Reserve should remain independent, as much as it can.”

And Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who is in line to become chairman of the banking committee, told Politico that Mr. Powell had done nothing to warrant his dismissal.

“After a long and dangerous experiment in monetary policy, conducted by others, Chairman Powell has gone a long way to restoring normalcy,” Mr. Toomey said. “We should be grateful for that. I have no reason to believe that the president is planning to fire Chairman Powell. He certainly should not do so.”

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