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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

Updated 32 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.