Fed chair Powell says he would not resign if Trump asked

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says he would not resign if pressured to do so by President Donald Trump.

“No,” Powell answered simply, when asked Friday morning during a panel at the annual American Economics Association conference alongside former Fed chairs Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke.

Trump has repeatedly criticized Powell for continuing to tighten monetary policy, saying on Twitter that it’s the “only problem” with the economy. The President has also asked advisers amid increasing market volatility in recent weeks whether he can fire Powell.

It’s unclear whether presidents legally can fire Fed chairs, whom they appoint for four-year terms. Trump chose Powell in 2017 to succeed Yellen, bucking the practice of reappointing Fed chairs to second terms.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who supported Powell’s appointment, tweeted in late December that Trump had never suggested firing Powell and did not believe he had the power to do so.

Onstage in Atlanta on Friday, Powell said Trump had not directly expressed dissatisfaction to him, and that he has no plans to meet with Trump. White House aides have floated the idea of inviting the former investment banker to sit with the President in person to allay Trump’s concerns.

“Meetings between presidents and Fed chairs do happen, but nothing’s been scheduled,” Powell told moderator Neil Irwin, an economics reporter for the New York Times.

Both Yellen and Bernanke spoke about the importance of insulating monetary policy decisions from political concerns in order to reassure investors that rate changes are solidly grounded in economic data.

Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon tangled with their Fed chairs, but more recently American leaders have refrained from commenting on policy decisions.

“Obviously the president has the right to comment on the Fed,” Yellen said. “But I would worry that if it continues or intensifies, it could undermine confidence in the Fed.”

Powell jumped in again to reiterate that the Fed would not be swayed by comments from the President or any other politician.

“We are committed to achieving the goals that the law gives us, based on the best thinking,” he said. “It’s very much in the DNA of the Fed. We have a strong culture. It’s not a fragile one, it’s not subject to being disrupted, and I would want the public to have confidence in that.”

The Federal Reserve raised rates in December and has signaled that it would be open to considering rate changes in 2019, even amid signs that the global economy is starting to slow.