Mnuchin Describes ‘Covert’ Effort to Secretly Get Powell Into White House, Wig Not Included
(Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s dinner on Monday with President Donald Trump was “casual” and “productive,” and may happen again, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
“Powell gave the president an overview of the economy and what he was seeing and which was quite strong, and consistent with his public comments,” Mnuchin said on CNBC early Wednesday. “The president was quite engaged, we talked about everything from the economy to the golf match with Tiger and Jack to the Super Bowl.”
Powell and Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida met Trump and Mnuchin at the White House Monday for a 90-minute steak dinner. The Fed released a statement shortly after the meeting saying that the group discussed the U.S. economy’s performance and outlook, but that Powell did not share his expectations for monetary policy.
When asked whether Trump expressed appreciation that Powell had not raised rates earlier this month, Mnuchin said no. “Powell was very clear that he wasn’t going to say anything in private inconsistent to what he said publicly,” according to Mnuchin.
There were no “pre-set parameters” ahead of the dinner, and Powell was brought into the White House in “somewhat of a covert operation” to avoid creating speculation, Mnuchin said. But he joked that Powell didn’t wear a disguise, such as a wig or mustache.
Mnuchin and Powell meet weekly for lunch, a long-held tradition between the heads of the Treasury Department and Fed. Mnuchin said the pair have developed a “very open two-way dialog.” Meetings between a president and Fed chief are rare but not unprecedented. This one, though, followed repeated public criticism by Trump of Powell over Fed rate increases that culminated with Bloomberg News reporting Dec. 21 that Trump had discussed firing the man he picked to lead the central bank.
Mnuchin said that another meeting between Trump and Powell is “something we will contemplate again in the future.”
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