Trump slams Fed chair, questions climate change and threatens to cancel Putin meeting in wide-ranging interview with The Post


President Trump placed responsibility for recent stock market declines and this week's announcement of General Motors plant closures and layoffs on the Federal Reserve during an interview Tuesday, shirking any personal blame for cracks in the economy and declaring that he is not even a little bit happy "With his hand-selected central bank chairman.

In a wide-ranging and sometimes discordant 20-minute interview with The Washington Post, Trump complained at length about Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. "Jay" Powell, whom I nominated last year. When asked about declines on Wall Street and GM's announcement that it was laying off 15 percent of its workforce, Trump responded by criticizing higher interest rates and other Fed policies, though he insisted that he was not worried about recession.

"I'm doing deals, and I'm not being accommodated by the Fed," Trump said. "They're making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more than anybody else's brain can ever tell me."

He added: "So far, I'm not even a little bit happy with my selection of Jay. Not even a little bit. And I'm not blaming anybody, but I'm just telling you. I think the Fed is off-base with what they're doing. "

Vladimir Putin at a global summit this week in Argentina because of Russia's maritime clash with Ukraine.

Asked if he thought Putin was within his rights to capture three Ukrainian ships and their crews Sunday in the Black Sea, Trump said he was awaiting a "full report" from his national security team Tuesday evening about the incident. "That will be very determinative," Trump said. "Maybe I will not have the meeting. Maybe I will not even have the meeting. "

President Trump on Tuesday again questioned the CIA's conclusion that the Saudi crown prince ordered the killing of a dissident journalist. (Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post)

When asked whether Russia's aggression is a cause for concern to the American people, Trump responded to a more forceful critique of Putin's actions than those he has delivered in the past.

"I do not like that aggression," he said. "I do not want that aggression at all. Absolutely. And by the way, Europe should not like that aggression. And Germany should not like that aggression. "

Trump also dismissed the federal government's landmark report released last week finding that damages from global warming are intensifying around the country. The president said that "I do not see" climate change as man-made and that he does not believe the scientific consensus.

"One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we're not necessarily such believers," Trump said. "You look at our air and our water, and it's right now at a record clean."

The president added of climate change, "As to whether or not it's man-made and whether or not the effects you're talking about are there, I do not see it."

The comments were Trump's most extensive yet on disagrees with the dire National Climate Assessment released by his own administration Friday, which found that climate change poses a serious threat to the health and financial security of Americans, as well as to the country's infrastructure and natural resources.

Jamal Khashoggi, contributor to The Post, and he has considered Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's repeated denials in his decision to maintain a close alliance with the oil-rich desert kingdom

"Maybe he did and maybe he did not," Trump said. "But he denies it. And people around him deny it. And the CIA did not say affirmatively he did it, either, by the way. I'm not saying that they're saying he did not do it, but they did not say it affirmatively. "

Trump said he could visit with Mohammed on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit, though no formal meeting has been scheduled.

The CIA has asserted that Mohammed ordered Khashoggi's killing and has shared his findings with lawmakers and the White House, according to people familiar with the matter. Intelligence assessments are rarely, if ever, ironclad, and Trump has repeatedly stressed that there is no evidence that would irrefutably lay the blame at Mohammed's feet.

But the CIA based its overall assessment of Mohammed's role on a number of pieces of compelling evidence, including intercepted communications; surveillance from inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi was killed in October; and the agency's analysis of Mohammed's total control of the Saudi government.

"The Mueller investigation is what it is. It just goes on and on and on, "Trump said Tuesday. (Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post)

Robert S. Mueller III's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Meanwhile, Trump said he had "no intention" of moving to stop special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"The Mueller investigation is what it is. It just goes on and on and on, "he said. When pressed on whether it would commit to letting the probe continue until its conclusion, Trump stopped short of making an explicit pledge.

"This question has been asked about me now for almost two years," he said, at which point counselor Kellyanne Conway chimed in, "A thousand times."

Trump continued: "And, in the meantime, he's still there. I would not have to be, but he's still there, so I have no intention of doing anything. "

The president declined to discuss the Mueller team's accusation Monday that Paul Manafort had breached his plea agreement by repeatedly appearing to investigators, or whether he would use presidential powers to help his former campaign chairman.

"Let me go off the record because I do not want to get in the middle of the whole thing," he said. He added later: "At some point, I'll talk about the record about it. But I'd rather not. "

Trump also floated the idea of ​​removing U.S. troops from the Middle East, citing the lower price of oil as a reason to withdraw.

"Now, are we going to stay in that part of the world? One reason to Israel, "Trump said. "Oil is becoming less and less of a reason because we're producing more oil now than we've ever produced. So, you know, all of a sudden it gets to a point where you do not have to stay there. "

Trump also called the killing of three U.S. troops in a roadside explosion in Afghanistan this week "very sad." He said he was continuing the military presence in Afghanistan only because "experts" told him the United States needed to keep fighting there.

The president said he was considering troops in the region soon, perhaps before Christmas. "At the right time I will," he said of the war-zone visit, which would be his first as president.

During the interview, Trump's sharp criticism was reserved for his Fed chairman. Though Trump said several times in response to a question about emerging cracks in the economy that he was not blaming anybody, he clearly assigned blame to Powell for leading the Fed through several interest rate increases this year.

In Twitter posts Tuesday, issued shortly after his interview with The Post, Trump blamed GM chief executive Mary Barra for the company's plant closures and layoffs and threatened to strip away any government subsidies for the auto giant.

Trump's fury at GM and the Fed was similar to Harley-Davidson this summer, after the Milwaukee-based motorcycle company announced it was moving some jobs overseas in part because it was caught in the midst of a trade war between the White House and foreign leaders.

The stock market has tumbled in recent weeks, unnerving Trump, who in turn has blamed Democrats, the Chinese government and the central bank for any perceived economic weakness.

Asked in the interview who should be held responsible – and remembered that one of his predecessors, Harry Truman, famously kept a sign at his desk that read, "The buck stops here" – Trump took no personal responsibility.

The Federal Reserve is the nation's central bank and sets the direction for interest rates, or the cost of borrowing money. Higher rates make it more expensive for consumers and businesses to obtain credit, which can put downward pressure on the economy.

During the interview, Trump's description of the economy was at odds with its current performance. It has grown since I took office and the unemployment rate has failed, but I have suggested that many jobs were returning to the United States from overseas as they were being lost in layoffs.

In addition, Trump said the stock market was up 38 percent since he took office. In fact, the Dow Jones industrial average is up 25 percent since it was sworn in, less than the increase during President Barack Obama's first two years in office.

The United States has had very low interest rates for more than a decade, and Fed officials are slow to bring them back up. Many economists believe that higher interest rates are a way to combat inflation and prevent the economy from overheating.

Powell took over the chairman earlier this year. Since then, the Fed has raised interest rates three times and is expected to increase them another time next month.

"The Fed is doing exactly what it should do, which is to prevent overheating and boom-bust-type conditions in the future," former Federal Reserve vice chairman Donald Kohn said.

Brad DeLong, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said the Fed was responding in part to economic conditions Trump had helped foster, such as last year's tax cut, which led to what some had projected would be the short-term economic growth spurt.

"The Federal Reserve can not be expected to raise interest rates," DeLong said. "This is what Trump bought when I made his Fed appointments. So why is he surprised? "

Trump's selection of Powell to lead the central bank was largely driven by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Powell's appointment was very unusual, as he is not an economist. He had served in a Republican White House but was first tapped to serve the Fed governor by Obama. During his initial tenure at the Fed, Powell was very supportive of the slow-but-steady interest rate increase strategy used by then-Chair Janet L. Yellen.

Trump considered reappointing Yellen to the post, and she impressed him greatly during an interview, according to people briefed on their encounter. But advisers steered him away from renominating her, telling him that he should have his own person in the job.

The president also appeared hung up on Yellen's height. I have told aides on the National Economic Council on several occasions that the 5-foot-3-inch economist was not tall enough to lead the central bank, quizzing them on whether they agreed, current and former officials said.

Discussing his decision to tap Powell, Trump said Monday: "Look, I took recommendations. I'm not blaming anybody. "

Brady Dennis, Anne Gearan and Shane Harris contributed to this report.


Source link