November 24, 2018 / 12:23 AM / 19 days ago

Trump dismisses report he is unhappy with Treasury's Mnuchin

(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Friday that he was quite happy with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s performance, after The Wall Street Journal reported that the president was dissatisfied with Mnuchin.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during his interview with Reuters in Jerusalem October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

“I am extremely happy and proud of the job being done by @USTreasury Secretary @stevenmnuchin1,” Trump said in a tweet.

The Journal reported that Trump blames Mnuchin for the appointment of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who has been steadily raising U.S. interest rates. Trump is concerned that higher rates could undercut economic gains ahead of his 2020 reelection bid, the newspaper reported.

Quoting unnamed sources, the Journal said Trump has also expressed displeasure with Mnuchin over stock market turbulence and the Treasury secretary’s skepticism about the White House trade actions against China.

“The FAKE NEWS likes to write stories to the contrary, quoting phony sources or jealous people, but they aren’t true. They never like to ask me for a quote b/c it would kill their story,” Trump said on Twitter.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the Fed’s rate increases under Powell. In October, he called the Fed “crazy,” “ridiculous” and “my biggest threat.”

A year ago when Trump picked Powell to head the Federal Reserve, Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker, was a strong advocate of his nomination.

The Wall Street Journal, citing a person familiar with the matter, said Trump, in a conversation with someone who praised Mnuchin’s performance, mentioned stock market volatility and said: “If he’s so good, why is this happening?”

The benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index .SPX on Friday ended down 10.2 percent from its Sept. 20 closing high, confirming that it had entered a correction, a term used to describe a decline of at least 10 percent from the previous peak.

When the stock market has posted big gains, Trump has frequently tweeted about Wall Street’s performance. On Oct. 2, Trump tweeted: “The Stock Market just reached an All-Time High during my Administration for the 102nd Time, a presidential record, by far, for less than two years.”

The Journal said Mnuchin has tried to moderate Trump’s policy in the trade dispute with China. The Republican president, seeking to slash a $375 billion trade gap with China, has imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese imports to force concessions.

The Journal said that at a meeting last month, Mnuchin used the word “we” to refer to the administration’s tough-on-China trade practices.

“What do you mean ‘we,’ Steve?” Trump said, according to the Journal, citing people familiar with the meeting.

Reporting by Mohammad Zargham and David Morgan in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Leslie Adler

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