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Trump knows he can't fire Fed chair Jerome Powell, Mulvaney says

Mulvaney said Trump recognizes he "does not have the ability" to fire Powell.
Image: Jerome Powell
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at a news conference in Washington on Dec. 19, 2018.Yuri Gripas / Reuters

White House budget chief and incoming acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that President Donald Trump knows he can't fire Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who the president has excoriated in recent months for raising interest rates.

Speaking with ABC's "This Week," Mulvaney said Trump recognizes he "does not have the ability" to fire Powell. Presidents do not have the power to fire Federal Reserve chairs, though they do appoint individuals to run the independent agency for four-year terms. The only mechanism for removing a Federal Reserve chairman prior to the end of their term is if Congress impeaches them for cause.

Mulvaney's comments followed reporting from the past week that stated the president wanted to fire Powell, whom he nominated to replace predecessor Janet Yellen. The New York Times reported that Trump told advisers he thinks Powell will "turn me into Hoover," referencing President Herbert Hoover who served during the onset of the Great Depression.

"Listen, it’s not at all unusual for a president to complain about the actions of the Federal Reserve chairman," Mulvaney said. "I think Ronald Reagan is famous for it. Paul Volcker’s book I think just came out a couple months ago and he has a very specific passage where he was called into the chief of staff’s office and told, let me make one thing perfectly clear, the president’s telling you to lower rates."

"The tension between the president and an independent Fed is traditional as part of our system, so it shouldn’t be surprising to anybody that the president’s not happy that the Fed is raising rates and we think driving down the value of the stock market," he continued.

In a Saturday night tweet, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the president told him that although he "totally" disagrees with Federal Reserve policy, he "never suggested" firing Powell, nor does he "believe" he has "the right to do so."

Speaking with ABC, Mulvaney incorrectly said the president was the one to post that tweet, not Mnuchin.

Last week, the Federal Reserve announced it will raise interest rates to a range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent.

In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said he didn't think Powell "is in any danger of being fired by the president."

"I think some of the president's comments have been unfortunate," Toomey said of Trump's remarks on the Federal Reserve. "But Chairman Powell is not going to let politics interfere with his decision-making process."