Mnuchin: Powell and Trump had ‘productive’ meeting

Martin Crutsinger
AP Economics Writer

Washington – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that President Donald Trump had a “quite productive” dinner with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, during which they discussed a wide range of subjects, from the state of the economy to the Super Bowl and Tiger Woods’ golf game.

Talking to reporters at the White House, Mnuchin said that Trump was very engaged during the casual dinner Monday night. It took place in the White House residence and marked the first time Powell and Trump have met since Powell took office as Fed chairman a year ago.

Mnuchin, who participated in the dinner along with Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida, said that Powell’s comments were consistent with what he has been saying publicly about the economy. The Fed said in a statement that Powell did not discuss the future course of interest rates.

During the last three months of 2018, Trump was sharply critical of the Fed’s move to higher interest rates, arguing that there was no need for higher rates because inflation was tame. He called the Fed’s moves to boost rates his biggest threat.

After a meeting last week, the Fed signaled that it planned to pause its rate hikes and would be “patient” before raising rates again. The announcement sparked a huge rally on Wall Street.

In an interview Wednesday with CNBC, Mnuchin said that he had set up the dinner on Friday at Trump’s request.

First word of the dinner came from the Fed, which put out a statement Monday saying that Powell “did not discuss his expectations for monetary policy” during his meeting with the president.

“The Fed chair was very consistent in what he said to the president with what he’s been saying publicly in his press conferences,” Mnuchin said in a CNBC interview Wednesday. “It thought it was a very productive meeting. It was a casual meeting. And we enjoyed a wide range of topics with the president in the residence.”

In addition to the the dinner with Trump, Mnuchin holds regular weekly meetings with Powell to discuss economic issues.

“As it relates to the dinner with the president, there were no preset parameters,” Mnuchin said. “I think Jay Powell is very clear that he wasn’t going to say anything in private inconsistent with what he said publicly.”

Mnuchin said that while the dinner was immediately revealed after it took place, there had been something of a “covert operation” to get Powell into the White House without being seen “so it didn’t create speculation” about the purpose of Powell’s visit.

During the fall when Trump was attacking Powell as the market fell, there had been speculation that Trump might try to remove Powell, who had been his personal choice to succeed Janet Yellen after he decided not to nominate her for a second term.

Asked about Trump’s unhappiness, Powell had said that he would not resign if asked to do so by Trump.


Associated Press White House reporter Darlene Superville contributed to this report.