Trump and Powell in 2017. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
President Trump said Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell has "really stepped up," offering rare praise during a press conference on Monday.
Why it matters: It marks a big shift in Trump's tone on Powell — who he's bashed for months — after a series of measures announced by the Fed in recent days to ease the economic fallout from the coronavirus.
"I am happy with [Powell]. ... I really think he’s caught up. He’s really stepped up over the last week. I called him today and I said, ‘Jerome, good job.’”— President Trump
Of note: Trump told reporters the two men spoke via phone on Monday. The Federal Reserve on Monday night wouldn't comment on whether the phone call happened.
- Despite the central bank's apolitical nature, it's normal for presidents to occasionally speak with their Fed chairs, particularly in times of crisis.
- Powell and Trump have spoken several times before, though Trump's public criticism offered an unprecedented backdrop for these conversations.
Context: Trump's praise for Powell comes as the economy could see extremely high unemployment rates and a sharp drop-off in GDP growth from efforts to stop the coronavirus outbreak.
- A day before the Fed took one of the biggest steps to date to help the economy, Trump said he wasn't happy with Powell and threatened he had the power to demote him, but he hadn't "made any decisions on that." (Experts are split on whether the president has the power to remove the Fed chair, and it's unclear if a demotion would be effective.)
- The comments echoed Trump's months-long calls for the central bank to lower interest rates, despite the strong economy he touted.
The bottom line: The Fed has acted swiftly to reinstate 2008 financial crisis measures to ease the economic pain from the coronavirus. It's won approval from Trump — though the Fed has repeatedly said it doesn't take criticism from the White House into consideration.
- "[Powell's] not finished. He's got other arrows in the quiver, or whatever they say, he's got plenty of arrows," Trump told reporters, referring to more actions the Fed could take to help the economy.