Mar 10, 2019

Fed chair Jerome Powell denies Trump influenced interest rate decisions

In an interview with CBS' 60 minutes, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that President Trump's criticism of the the central bank and its interest rate hikes played no role in the Fed's recent decisions to hold off on raising interest rates further.

The big picture: The Fed's seemingly sudden shift to pause on further interest rate hikes came after Trump's unprecedented string of negative comments about Powell and the Fed hiking rates under his leadership — stoking concerns that Trump had influenced the apolitical central bank.

The exchange:

Scott Pelley: You were raising interest rates at the end of last year and just in the beginning of 2019. The president sounded off on that. And you stopped raising interest rates. Was it because of pressure from the White House and the President?
Powell: Not at all. Not at all. And it's very important that the public understand that we are always going to make decisions based on what we think is right for the American people .... We will never, ever take political considerations into effect. This is a strong institution, which has a strong culture, which is as I've described it.

Other highlights: Powell also said that the president does not have the legal authority to fire him, something lawyers and fed-watchers have debated. He also said he "fully intends" to serve his four-year term.

  • Powell also reiterated his concern about the U.S. national debt, saying he feels like he "has a duty to speak up" when something "threatens the overall economy."

Go deeper

WHO health official leads criticism of Trump's coronavirus response

President Trump with members of the new coronavirus task force, including Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on Wednesday. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, special advisor to the director general of the World Health Organization, told MSNBC Wednesday he found "most" of what President Trump said at his briefing on the novel coronavirus "incoherent."

The big picture: The top health professional, who was a health policy adviser in the Obama administration, is among several leading figures — in particular, Democrats — to criticize the president for his response to the outbreak in recent days.

Coronavirus updates: U.S. probes possible community spread as more countries report cases

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 CDC said Wednesday U.S. clinicians have found the novel coronavirus in a person who did not recently return from a foreign country nor knowingly have contact with anyone infected, as six more countries reported their first cases.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 81,000 others. South Korea has the most cases outside China, with 1,595 infections confirmed by Wednesday night. Europe's biggest outbreak is in Italy, where 453 cases have been confirmed.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health

Trump assigns Pence to lead U.S. coronavirus response


President Trump announced at a press briefing Wednesday evening that he'll be putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of leading the administration's response to the coronavirus.

The big picture: In the wake of a market sell-off and warnings from health officials that there's a real threat of the coronavirus spreading in the U.S., Trump sought to reassure the nation and Wall Street that the U.S. is "ready" for whatever comes next.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy