Trump, Powell official engagement went back in deep freeze during December

The November rapprochement between the Federal Reserve chair and the president of the United States did not continue in December, at least officially, according to the Fed leader’s calendar released last week.

However, the central bank leader did meet with the president’s council of economic advisers and, separately, the president’s top economic adviser – as well as the Treasury secretary – two months ago.

The official calendar for Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. (“Jay”) Powell for December shows no repeat of the 30-minute meeting Powell had with President Donald Trump in November. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin also participated in the meeting, held at the White House Nov. 18. That meeting ended a six-month drought of direct engagement between the two. Neither the Fed nor the White House released either a press statement or readout of the November meeting.

In fact, the Fed chair’s December calendar shows no direct engagement between Trump and Powell, including phone calls.

However, Powell did attend meetings of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers on Dec. 16 and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow on Dec. 19. Both meetings were held at the Federal Reserve’s headquarters in Washington.

As for Mnuchin, Powell’s calendar shows he met twice with the Treasury Secretary: on Dec. 4 in a one-hour meeting over the issue of reference rates in conjunction with federal financial institution regulatory agency heads and bank representatives; and on Dec. 5 for a 45-minute breakfast at the Fed.

The two meetings, for less than two hours, was the second-shortest amount of time the pair officially spent together in 2019. The two met for about 45 minutes in June – the least amount of time the Fed chair and Treasury leader officially engaged.

Powell was a frequent target of Trump’s criticism in 2019 for not cutting interest rates more (or even considering “negative” interest rates). Powell repeatedly cited the Fed’s independence from political pressure during that time.

Chair Powell’s December 2019 calendar