Sanders ‘Not Aware’ of Any Trump Talks With Powell on Fed Rates

(Bloomberg) -- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she isn’t aware of any conversations about interest rates between Donald Trump and Jerome Powell despite the president’s criticism of increases under the Federal Reserve chairman.

“I’m not aware that they’ve spoken about that at all,” Sanders said Wednesday in a briefing with reporters in Washington.

Trump said he expected Powell to be a cheap-money Fed chief and lamented to wealthy Republican donors at a Hamptons fundraiser on Friday that his nominee instead had raised rates, according to three people present.

Trump’s jabs at the fundraiser built on an attack he leveled at Powell’s Fed in July, when he pronounced himself “not thrilled” with the rate increases. That broadside, in an interview with CNBC, broke with a more than two-decade-old norm of presidents avoiding comments on monetary policy out of respect for the Fed’s independence.

The U.S. central bank has raised rates five times since Trump took office, including twice this year under Powell. Minutes released Wednesday of their most recent monetary policy meeting showed Fed officials are willing to hike again soon if the economy remains healthy. The next gathering of the Federal Open Market Committee is scheduled for Sept. 25-26.

The president nominates the Fed’s chairman and other governors in Washington, but the agency is independent and has historically frustrated presidents by raising borrowing costs without regard for politics.

Even as Trump complains, the Fed is moving more slowly to raise interest rates than it has in previous economic expansions. Rates are low by historical standards given an unemployment rate below 4 percent and, in recent months, accelerating economic growth.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.