Trump adviser says jobs of Fed chair, treasury secretary safe

2018-12-27 09:54

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An economic adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday the jobs of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are safe, amid reports Trump was considering sacking the central bank chief and was displeased with the senior finance official.

Powell's job is "100 percent" secure, Kevin Hassett told a reporter of NBC News at the White House, following his appearance in a Fox Business program where he said he was highly confident that Trump is happy with Mnuchin.

Hassett is chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, an economic policy advisory body within the Executive Office of the President.

Reports emerged Friday that Trump discussed with his advisers whether he could fire Powell, as the Fed's announcement of the fourth interest rate hike this year and the continuing stock market losses over the past months fueled the president's dissatisfaction with the central bank governor and the institution he leads.

Mnuchin on Saturday denied that Trump planned to remove the Fed chairman, saying on Twitter that Trump told him in a conversation that he "never suggested firing" Powell. "Nor do I believe I have the right to do so," Mnuchin quoted Trump as saying.

According to Mnuchin, however, Trump said, "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."

Relations among White House advisers are reportedly tense due to the rate hikes, and Hassett is among those who are opposed to intervention in the Fed's policy-making. He said it wasn't appropriate for White House economists to comment on monetary policy.

Contrary to U.S. media reports that Trump's frustration with Mnuchin ratcheted up after the latter's failed attempt to put a brake on the free-fall of major U.S. stock indices leading to the Christmas holiday, the president told reporters Tuesday morning in the Oval Office that he has confidence in Mnuchin, and that the secretary is a "very talented and very smart person."

Trump shifted his criticism again to the Fed, saying it "raised the interest rates too fast, that's my opinion."

In a move to quell market volatility, Mnuchin on Sunday convened individual calls to chief executive officers of six major U.S. banks. "The banks all confirmed ample liquidity is available for lending to consumer and business markets," the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Mnuchin's effort to reach out to the private banking sector is seen as rare for a senior government official. The New York Times said in a report that he conducted "the type of discussions usually reserved for moments of crisis."
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