Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell Says Donald Trump Can't Fire Him: 'I Have a Four-year Term and I Fully Intend to Serve It'

In a wide-ranging interview on the CBS show 60 Minutes, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said President Donald Trump did not have the authority to remove him from his position.

The Fed has often been the target of criticism from the Trump administration. Toward the end of last year, Bloomberg reported that the president had discussed firing Powell.

When CBS's Scott Pelley asked Powell whether the president could fire him, he responded: "The law is clear that I have a four-year term. And I fully intend to serve it."

Pelley then pressed him to clarify his answer, asking, "So no, in your view?" to which Powell responded "no."

Following the publication of the Bloomberg story, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he spoke with Trump about the Bloomberg report, and he said the president reassured him that no such discussion had taken place.

"I have spoken with the President @realDonaldTrump and he said 'I totally disagree with Fed policy. I think the increasing of interest rates and the shrinking of the Fed portfolio is an absolute terrible thing to do at this time, especially in the light of my major trade negotiations which are ongoing, but I never suggested firing Chairman Jay Powell, nor do I believe I have the right to do so,'" Mnuchin wrote on Twitter.

In the 60 Minutes interview, Pelley asked Powell whether he thought raising interest rates four times last year had been a mistake—a move that resulted in the president calling the Fed "crazy" and "out of control." Traditionally, presidents do not publicly criticize the Fed in this manner.

Powell responded: "I feel, and our committee feels, that our interest rate policy is in a very good place right now. It's roughly neutral in a sense that our interest rate is in the range of estimates of a rate that is neither urging the economy to go faster, nor trying to slow it down," he said. "And we think that's an appropriate place for an economy that has the lowest unemployment in 50 years, that has inflation right about at our 2 percent objective, that has returned significantly to good health."

Trump has also previously called the Fed a "much bigger problem than China." Pelley put this comment to Powell, asking if it was his duty to respond to such remarks.

"My duty is one that Congress has given us, which is to use our tools to achieve maximum employment and stable prices and to supervise and regulate banks so that they treat their customers fairly and so that they're strong, well-capitalized and can perform their critical function in good times and bad," Powell said. "That's my job. And I think for me to get into responding to any elected official would be a distraction from that job."

Powell asserted that the Fed remains independent, dismissing suggestions that a freeze in interest rate rises at the beginning of 2019 was anything to do with political pressure.

"It's very important that the public understand that we are always going to make decisions based on what we think is right for the American people," Powell said. "We answer to the American people and to their elected representatives in our system of government.

"So, when we say we're independent, what does that mean? What it means is that we serve long terms that are not at all synced up with the election cycle," he said. "And it means that we are directed to execute policy in a strictly nonpolitical way, serving all Americans. And that's what we do. We are independent in that sense. Our decisions on rates can't be reversed by any other part of government."

Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during the 2019 Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research Economic Summit at Stanford University on March 8, 2019, in Stanford, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell Says Donald Trump Can't Fire Him: 'I Have a Four-year Term and I Fully Intend to Serve It' | U.S.