Trump offers strong defense of Steven Mnuchin’s work as Treasury chief
WASHINGTON — President Trump offered a vigorous defense of his Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, rejecting a report earlier Friday that he had expressed dissatisfaction with Mnuchin.
“I am extremely happy and proud of the job being done by USTreasury Secretary stevenmnuchin1,” Trump said in a Twitter post on Friday night. “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.”
The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported earlier Friday that the president held Mnuchin responsible for the appointment of Jerome Powell as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Trump has repeatedly criticized the central bank for raising interest rates, saying that the increases were behind stock market declines.
Trump nominated Powell as Janet Yellen’s successor a year ago.
“I’d like to see the Fed with a lower interest rate,” Trump told reporters earlier this week. “We have much more of a Fed problem than we do with anyone else.” His criticisms broke a two-decade tradition of presidents avoiding comment on monetary policy out of respect for the Fed’s independence.
Mnuchin has had disagreements with other administration officials over trade policy. He has tried to ease tensions with China and clashed with those, like White House adviser Peter Navarro, who favor a harsher, more confrontational approach.
Trump’s defense of Mnuchin comes as speculation mounts over whether there will be more high-level departures from the administration.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned the day after the midterm elections, in which Democrats won control of the House of Representatives. For months before that, Sessions had been publicly castigated by the president for recusing himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump has, if anything, encouraged the speculation. In an interview broadcast on “Fox News Sunday” early this week, he said he wanted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen “to be much tougher on the border” and suggested potential changes in his administration could also include chief of staff John Kelly.
In that interview, Trump said he liked Nielsen but suggested there was only a “chance” she’d be continuing in her position. He said was thinking about changing “three or four or five positions” and “maybe it’s going to end up being two.”