The law is clear: the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board has a term to serve out, and he fully intends to serve it, he said Wednesday – despite whatever criticisms the president may throw his way.
In a press conference following a meeting of the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome H .(“Jay”) Powell responded to a question from a reporter, asking him to “clarify what you would do if (President Donald Trump) tweets or says he would like to remove you as chair?”
Powell provided a short, but weighty, response: “I think the law is clear: I have three years left of a term and I fully intend to serve it,” Powell said.
The Fed chairman expanded a bit on that response to a query from another reporter later, who asked when or if he should push back against Trump, and does the Fed chairman have the same policy goals as the president. “The Federal Reserve is answerable to Congress; there will be no political interference,” he said curtly.
Earlier this week, news outlets reported that the White House counsel’s office in February looked into the legal actions necessary to remove Powell as chairman of the Fed Board, but leave him on the board overall – thus giving Trump the opportunity to name a new chairman. The counsel’s office apparently reached a conclusion about Powell’s removal as chairman – but that result has been closely held by the White House, Bloomberg reported Monday. Some have since speculated that the White House has given up on the project.
However, Trump himself in comments to reporters Tuesday when asked about Powell’s future, said “let’s see how he does.”
On Wednesday, Powell announced that the Fed had made no changes to interest rates (Trump has argued that interest rates must be lowered to further stimulate the economy). In his statement before taking questions from reporters, Powell indicated that differing signals from the economy – low or falling unemployment numbers, while manufacturing and other activity is slowing – convinced the Fed to stay the course on interest rates.