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Fed's Powell says 'hard no' on politics influencing central bank's decisions

Megan Henney

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell maintained that the U.S. central bank is free from political influence -- despite frequent attacks lobbed against the regulatory body by President Trump.

"We're completely and totally focused on our jobs," Powell said while speaking at the University of Zurich on Friday. "I think, just to understand, I feel like the Fed’s a very important American institution. The things we do affect people’s lives. And we're going to focus on using our tools to do the best job we can to do the job that Congress has given us under the law."

Trump often criticizes the Fed, and Powell, for not lowering interest rates aggressively enough, which he’s said hurts the global competitiveness of the U.S. Powell, who was handpicked by Trump almost two years ago, has not responded publicly to the criticism, except to say that he “fully intends” to serve his full-year term.

The question of the Fed’s independence resurfaced last week, when former New York Fed President Bill Dudley wrote in Bloomberg News the Fed should refuse to play along with the U.S.-China trade war, and its economic fallout, by withholding cutting interest rates and that it should take the outcome of the 2020 presidential elections into account when setting monetary policy. Dudley clarified in a second op-ed that influencing politics did not fall under the Fed’s purview.

Fed officials denounced the initial op-ed, which generated immense criticism.

“Political factors play absolutely no role in our process, and my colleagues and I would not tolerate any attempt to include them in our decision-making or our discussions,” Powell said.

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