Donald Trump spoke to a group of wealthy donors in the Hamptons last week and reportedly spent some time whining about Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman he chose for the post late last year. As the president told contributors, Powell has gradually raised interest rates, to the disappointment of the White House.
We do not, however, have to rely on second-hand accounts from a fundraiser to learn Trump’s thoughts on the subject. The president was rather candid about Powell and the Fed in his interview yesterday with Reuters.
“I’m not thrilled with his raising of interest rates, no. I’m not thrilled,” Trump said, referring to Powell. Trump nominated Powell last year to replace former Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
Asked if he believed in the Fed’s independence, Trump said: “I believe in the Fed doing what’s good for the country.”
The president added, in apparent reference to his trade war, “[D]uring this period of time, I should be given some help by the Fed.”
There are a couple of angles to this to keep in mind. The first, obviously, is the fact that presidents are supposed to keep their distance from the Federal Reserve’s decisions, respecting the institution’s independence.
Trump, however, isn’t exactly a respect-norms-and-honor-boundaries sort of president.
Second, I’d love to know more about the Republican’s evolution on interest rates – because he used to have a very different position than the one he’s pushing now.
As we discussed several weeks ago, Trump complained to reporters just a few months into his presidential campaign that Janet Yellen, the then-chair of the Federal Reserve, “should have raised the rates,” but she’s “not doing it because the Obama administration and the president doesn’t want her to.” He added that Yellen was “obviously not independent” from the Democratic White House.
There was no evidence to support the allegations of interference, but Trump has never been an evidence kind of guy, either.
Six months later, he changed his mind, declaring, “Right now I am for low interest rates, and I think we keep them low.”
But as Election Day drew closer, Trump changed his mind again. As NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin explained at the time, the then-candidate convinced himself that Yellen was part of some kind of conspiracy to help Democrats by keeping interest rates low and the economy revving. The Republican said in September 2016 that the Fed had created a “false economy” through “artificially low” rates.
“I think she should be ashamed of herself,” Trump said about Yellin.
Nearly two years later, the Republican, now in the White House, has shifted gears on his Fed-related conspiracies and no longer has any use for his “false economy” concerns.