WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell dined at the White House on Monday in their first meeting after months in which Trump lambasted the central bank for raising interest rates and, in the president’s view, endangering the economy’s growth.
The dinner, which included Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Vice chair Richard Clarida, follows a Fed meeting last week at which the central bank said, in fact, that further rate hikes were on hold for now - a step Powell and others said was based on recent economic developments, not the president’s public tirades against the Fed.
The hour-and-a-half steak dinner, a possible opportunity for the two men to reset their relationship, covered a variety of economic topics, the Fed said in a statement, but did not delve into expectations of future monetary policy decisions.
Powell’s statements to the president, the Fed said, were all consistent with remarks made at a press conference after the Fed’s meeting last week.
The dinner was held “at the President’s invitation...to discuss recent economic developments and the outlook for growth, employment and inflation.”
Powell “did not discuss his expectations for monetary policy, except to stress that the path of policy will depend entirely on incoming economic information and what that means for the outlook,” the Fed statement said. “Chair Powell said that he and his colleagues...will make those decisions based solely on careful, objective and non-political analysis.”
Fed chairs routinely meet with the Treasury secretary, but sessions with the president are less frequent: Monday’s dinner is the first session between Trump and Powell since the Fed chair took over a year ago.
Recent presidents have largely steered clear of directly criticizing the Fed. While the central bank’s control over interest rates can cause headaches for elected officials, the ability of the central bank to make decisions free of direct political influence is considered a key part of its effectiveness and credibility with households and global investors.
As Fed rate increases continued through last year, however, Trump was unabashed in a series of comments from the summer through the end of the year - calling the central bank “crazy,” out of touch with markets, and according to reports exploring whether he could remove Powell as chair.
The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment about the session.
Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Lisa Shumaker