EXCLUSIVE: Trump says he has the power to remove Federal Reserve chairman 'if I wanted to'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE on Monday said he has the power to fire Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell but said he has no intention to do so.

In an exclusive interview with The Hill, Trump said Powell is “incorrect” that he is entitled to serving a four-year term that expires in 2022.

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Asked if he thinks he has the power to remove Powell, Trump said he could “if I wanted to, but I have no plans to do anything.”

Experts have questioned that assertion.

The Federal Reserve Act says the president can only remove the Fed chair for “cause,” and it is not clear whether differences over monetary policy would qualify. Short of firing Powell, Trump could decide to demote Powell but let him remain on the Fed’s Board of Governors. But that move could also trigger a legal challenge. 

The president has been fiercely critical of Powell’s stewardship of the central bank, accusing it of hindering economic growth through rate hikes. His constant critiques have roiled observers of the Fed, which is meant to be nonpartisan.

The Fed has hiked interest rates nine times since 2015, seven since 2017 including four times under Powell, who took over as chairman in 2018 after being nominated by Trump.

“You have to understand we’re competing against other parts of the world and they’re manipulators,” Trump said. “They manipulate their currency. And I don’t want to do that, but I want to be treated fairly. And we have to be given a level playing field.”

Trump repeated his claim that had Powell refrained from raising rates and using quantitative tightening, gross domestic product and the stock market would both be exceeding their current numbers. He called the Fed an “artificial barrier” to improved economic numbers.

Asked if he believes Powell is sabotaging him, Trump said he did not think that was the case.

“I don’t think he knows,” Trump said. “I don’t think he understands. He doesn’t get it.”

Brett Samuels contributed.