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Mnuchin and Powell won't get axed, says White House economic adviser

Trump reportedly blames his Treasury secretary and Federal Reserve chairman for the recent steep market declines.
Image: Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, speaks to the media outside the White House on Dec. 26, 2018.
Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, outside the White House on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018.Erik S. Lesser / EPA

The White House fired back Wednesday on reports that President Donald Trump is dissatisfied with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin after a series of calls by Mnuchin to the nation's top banks to calm market fears left bank executives instead feeling "totally baffled" a day before a record plunge on Wall Street.

“I am highly confident that the president is happy with Secretary Mnuchin,” White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told NBC News reporter Hans Nichols on the White House lawn on Wednesday.

Reports had surfaced Wednesday that indicated Mnuchin's position could be in "serious jeopardy" after he tried to assess liquidity and assuage investors following four straight days of losses on Wall Street. Despite Trump's promise that Americans would "make a fortune" on the stock market under his watch, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 9 percent for the year.

Hassett also said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's job is "100 percent" safe, despite widespread reports that Trump intended to fire him, blaming Powell for the steep market declines — though the authority for axing the man at the helm of the world's most influential central bank lies with Congress and not the president.

While it’s rare for a sitting president to comment on the Fed, which is supposed to remain immune to political pressure, Trump has repeatedly criticized Powell, saying he is "far too aggressive" and seems to "enjoy raising rates."

Appointed by Trump in November 2017, Powell, a multimillionaire Republican former hedge fund investor, took over the Fed from Janet Yellen in February and has presided over four rate hikes since, moves that Trump has variously described as "loco," "wild" and "ridiculous."