Oct 22, 2017

Inside the Fed chair decision

President Donald Trump during a news conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Like every major Trump decision, the president is leaving even his closest advisers in suspense over his plans for the next Federal Reserve Chairman. Most aides I've spoken to think Trump will appoint Fed Board member Jerome Powell. But nobody who's spoken to Trump feels overly confident.

"It's never a done deal with this guy," said one official.

Rupert Murdoch, who speaks regularly to Trump by telephone and is one of his most influential informal advisers, has urged the president to appoint either of the two free market conservative finalists, Stanford economist John Taylor or former Fed Governor Kevin Warsh, according to two sources familiar with his outreach.

A spokesman for Murdoch declined to comment.

Trump didn't have amazing chemistry with Taylor, according to two sources familiar with their interactions. But he's still in the mix, possibly for vice chair. Top officials who Trump respects, including Vice President Pence, have been vouching for Taylor's credentials and intellect. Trump has also spoken favorably of current Fed Chair Janet Yellen, further muddling the picture.

What else we're hearing:

  • A source who spoke to Trump late last week said they left the conversation believing the president had not made up his mind.
  • Another source close to the process told me the smart money is still on Powell. Powell's most aggressive advocate has been Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But Trump should be taken at his word when he tells Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo that he's considering Taylor and Yellen, or a combination of Powell and Taylor for chair and vice-chair.
  • Some White House officials have vented about the constant stream of news stories promoting Powell's candidacy. They say they suspect the leaks have come from Treasury, since Powell is Mnuchin's preferred candidate.
  • One senior official said Powell is far from a home run for Republicans. When Obama nominated Powell to the Fed Board, in 2012, 21 Republican senators voted against his confirmation.

What the West Wing is reading: Senior administration officials told me that Friday's Wall Street Journal editorial headlined "A Fed for a Growth Economy" was read attentively in the West Wing. The editorial argues it's a bad idea to give another term to the Obama appointee Janet Yellen or replace her with Jerome Powell, whom the Journal portrays as a Yellen clone. The newspaper lobbies for Trump to appoint either Taylor or Warsh. "Both would be change agents at the Fed," the editorial declares.

Bottom line: If you're handicapping the Fed Chair race, you're still probably safest with Powell. But this is far from a done deal. Trump still plans to announce his pick for the Fed Chair before he leaves for Asia on Nov. 3.

Go deeper

What the coronavirus means for Trump's presidency

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

A poor response to the coronavirus could be politically devastating for President Trump, and so far his administration has given the strong impression that it’s still scrambling as the risk of a pandemic mounts.

Why it matters: There’s only so much any president can do to stop a virus from spreading, and for now the coronavirus is still very much under control within the U.S. But if the disease get worse in the months ahead, and if the administration seems to be caught off guard, that spells trouble for public confidence in Trump.

Coronavirus updates: New global case numbers surpass China's

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. As Denmark and Estonia reported their first cases Thursday, Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia — which has 23 confirmed infections — told a news conference, "The risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us."

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Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing Company in Milwaukee Molson Coors on Wednesday, including the 51-year-old gunman, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at an evening press conference with local police.

Details: All of the victims worked at the brewery complex, as did the shooter who died of "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police confirmed in a statement late Wednesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy