Chatting over bagels, oatmeal, half grapefruits or other breakfast stuffs has become the preferred method for the chair of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury secretary to share thoughts – but it’s happened less frequently in recent months than earlier in the year, when President Donald Trump was speaking with the Fed chair.
According to the September calendar of Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome H. (“Jay”) Powell, published Tuesday (and the latest to be released), Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met twice in the month for one-hour breakfast meetings. They also held a 30-minute phone call, the calendar shows.
That’s the most that the two have shared face time since May – which, perhaps coincidentally, was the last time that Powell’s calendar showed a phone call with President Donald Trump (a five-minute conversation, according to the calendar). In May, Powell and Mnuchin met four times for breakfast – at various durations – for a total of 165 minutes.
In January, apparently kicking off the new year on a solid footing, Powell and Mnuchin breakfasted four times, chewing up 190 minutes (including an 80-minute session Jan. 4).
In February, when Powell had dinner with Trump (for a 90-minute sit-down that also included Mnuchin and FRB Vice Chair Richard Clarida), Mnuchin and Powell met twice for hour-long breakfast and lunch sessions (and one 10-minute phone call). In the subsequent three months (March, April, and May) Trump and Powell would engage in one five-minute call each month.
In fact, in the period of January-May, Powell had face- and phone-time of 860 minutes with Mnuchin and Trump – most of it with Mnuchin, at about 83% of the total time (and most of that over breakfast) – for 22 separate meetings or phone calls.
During that period, Trump publicly, repeatedly criticized Powell and the FRB over interest-rate policy.
Yet, after May (the last time Trump and Powell had a five-minute phone call), one-on-one exchanges between Powell and Mnuchin dropped off by about half (compared to the first five months of the year). According to Powell’s calendar, the two have met nine times for 440 minutes – six times over breakfast.
In June, the pair met once for 45 minutes over the first meal of the day. In July, they held one-hour lunch and breakfast sessions – and a five-minute phone call. The two leaders met twice in August during one-hour breakfast meetings.
September showed a slight uptick in direct communication between Powell and Mnuchin, with two-and-half hours of breakfast meetings and phone calls (mostly, again, breakfast).
September was also a month in which Powell faced criticism from Trump (which continued in October) over the Fed’s open market operations.