Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s recent dinner with President Donald Trump at the White House was “very casual,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday.
“Chairman Powell gave the president an overview of the economy and what he was seeing, which was quite strong and consistent with his public comments,” Mnuchin said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “We talked about everything from the economy to the golf match with Tiger [Woods] and Jack [Nicklaus] to the Super Bowl. We covered a wide range.”
Trump and Powell sat down at dinner together on Monday for about an hour and a half, with Mnuchin and Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida also in attendance.
“It was, I think, a terrific meeting for them to get to see each other. They had not met since Jay Powell was put into office,” Mnuchin added.
The dinner also came less than a week after Powell’s Fed decided to leave interest rates alone and said it will be more “patient” in assessing future rate hikes. Trump has repeatedly attacked the Fed for raising rates. During the news conference following the Fed’s policy meeting last week, Powell said the Fed does not take “political considerations” into account when making its decisions.
“I think the Fed chair was very consistent in what he said to the president with what he’s been saying publicly in his press conferences. I think that the Fed chair has been very clear in looking at the economy and the Fed being clear that they have lots of different tools,” Mnuchin said. “Again, I thought it was productive meeting. It was a casual meeting.”
Mnuchin clarified that “there was not a thank you” from Trump for Powell maintaining interest rates. Rather, Mnuchin said there was only “a thank you for coming for dinner.”
When asked how the president and his officials were able to walk the fine line of being apolitical in discussions with the Fed, Mnuchin noted that he meets “with Jay Powell every week.”
“I think Jay Powell is very clear that he wasn’t going to say anything in private inconsistent with what he said publicly, although, we did have somewhat of a covert operation getting him into the White House so that it didn’t create speculation. Jay Powell put out a statement right after the meeting — we weren’t trying to hide this,” Mnuchin said.
He added that Powell “did not” have a wig and a mustache on to slip into the White House.