Trump criticized Powell, Fed rate hikes at GOP fundraiser: reports

Trump criticized Powell, Fed rate hikes at GOP fundraiser: reports
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE complained about a series of Federal Reserve rate hikes, as well as Chairman Jerome Powell’s leadership of the bank, to wealthy Republican donors last weekend, according to multiple reports.

Trump expressed his displeasure with Powell, appointed by Trump to lead the Fed, and its monetary policy at a Friday GOP fundraising dinner in the Hamptons, according to reports from Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal.

Trump reportedly said he had nominated Powell because he expected him to keep interest rates low. The president has said he prefers low interest rates to help stimulate the economy, while most Republicans say doing so would risk rampant inflation and financial market bubbles.

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The Fed has raised interest rates five times since Trump took office and seven times since 2015 after slashing them to counter the 2008 recession. The Fed last raised rates in June, bringing the federal funds rate to a 1.75 to 2 percent target range, and is expected to issue at least two more hikes this year.

Trump has publicly criticized Powell several times this summer over the chairman’s support for rate hikes. The president has said he was “not thrilled” with Powell and that higher interest rates would slow down a booming economy while hindering the U.S. in global competition with China.

Powell has brushed off Trump’s comments, saying he and the Fed are committed to fulfilling the bank’s mandate with no consideration for politics. The chairman told reporters that he feels no pressure from Trump to hold back on rate hikes, and hasn’t been influenced by his administration.

Powell was appointed to the Fed in 2012 by former President Obama and has supported slow but steady rate hikes. The Fed has raised rates twice since he took control of the central bank in February, following three hikes in 2017 led by former Chairwoman Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenTrump nominates former Fed economist to central bank's board On The Money: Trump may impose 0B in China tariffs as soon as next week | Trump nixes federal worker pay raise | Biz groups push for deal with Canada | Trump threatens to leave WTO Trump says he doesn't regret picking Powell to lead Fed MORE.

Powell had voted in lockstep with Yellen, whom GOP lawmakers criticized for not raising interest rates earlier. Trump expressed his preference for low interest rates last year while mulling whether to reappoint Yellen or nominate a replacement.  

Powell was widely seen as a moderate step to the right of Yellen who would support similar monetary and regulatory policies. The Fed had been expected to raise rates in 2017 and 2018 long before Trump’s election, and each of the president’s five nominees to the Fed have expressed support for rate hikes.

Trump said at the Friday fundraiser that advisers told him Powell would support “cheap money,” according to the Journal and that the apparent reversal “can only happen to Trump.”

The president and his advisers are also reportedly concerned that rate hikes could slow the economy before the 2020 election. 

Republicans and Democrats concerned with Trump’s attacks on the Fed have rallied around Powell and opposed any politically motivated effort to influence the independent central bank.