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Trump directly attacks Fed Chairman Powell, saying 'Obama had zero' interest rates

CNBC logo CNBC 10/24/2018
  • President Donald Trump went after Fed Chairman Powell by name in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
  • Trump made clear that he feels President Barack Obama benefited from low interest rates.
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump Signs S.3021© Provided by CNBC LLC President Donald Trump Signs S.3021

President Donald Trump directly accused Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell of endangering the U.S. economy by raising interest rates, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"I'm just saying this: I'm very unhappy with the Fed because Obama had zero interest rates," Trump told the Journal on Tuesday. "Every time we do something great, he raises the interest rates."

The president said Powell "almost looks like he's happy raising interest rates," but declined to elaborate, according to the Journal.

Trump acknowledged that the Fed is traditionally independent of political influence, the Journal reported, but he still pressed his attacks and appeared to see the country's current economic performance as a competition between himself and President Barack Obama.

The Fed has raised interest rates three times this year and is largely expected to hike once more before year-end.

The most recent September rate hike drew criticism from Trump at the time, who said he was "worried about the fact that they seem to like raising interest rates, we can do other things with the money."

Asked if he regrets nominating Powell, Trump told the Journal: "Too early to tell, but maybe."

Trump has been critical of Fed policy, even though he appointed Powell to the role. The president is worried that the Fed's consistent rate hikes will interfere with economic growth.

However, Powell has said neither he nor other Fed officials are letting the politics bother them.

"My focus is essentially on controlling the uncontrollable. We control what do," he said in a question-and-answer session with Judy Woodruff of PBS earlier this month.

"Interest rates are still accommodative, but we're gradually moving to a place where they will be neutral," he added. "We may go past neutral, but we're a long way from neutral at this point, probably."

Click here for the full report in the Wall Street Journal.

— CNBC's Tom Franck and Michael Sheetz contributed to this report.

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