President Donald Trump is a showman whose love for spectacle has transformed even mundane personnel decisions into elaborate pageants - as the New York Times pointed out last night.
And of all the turmoil in the administration's process of hiring, and firing, employees, nothing has quite underscored this fact more clearly than Trump's quest to select Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen's successor before he term ends in February.
In the race to rack up the largest number of “scoops” during the meandering “will-he-or-won’t he” process, which has created a seemingly endless stream of stories about whom Trump might be leaning toward that day. In recent weeks, Politico and Bloomberg - or rather, their sources – have begun including a telling caveat: Until the final decision has been made, everything we’ve reported is subject to change.
Which brings us to the latest news. Reuters and CBS both reported late this week that Trump has ruled out asking Yellen to stay on for another term. Despite “collaborating” to push stocks to record highs, Yellen is a vestige of the Obama-era – and that alone probably sealed her fate, despite reportedly meeting with both Trump and his daughter Ivanka.
And while Trump said during an interview with Maria Bartiromo last week that he might announce both the chair and vice-chair positions at the same time, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – who’s nominally running the selection process for the administration – told reporters on Saturday that the administration is focused on finding a successor for Yellen, and that filling Fischer’s seat would need to wait, Bloomberg reported.
As things stand now, Mnuchin reportedly favors Fed Gov. Jerome Powell, and Mike Pence favors Stanford Economist John Taylor. Kevin Warsh, meanwhile, appears to have been sidelined thanks in part to a longrunning feud with Fed Gov and Trump pick Randall Quarles.
Powell, a Republican who was appointed to the board in 2012 by President Barack Obama, has backed Yellen’s dovish approach to Fed policy, but prefers a lighter touch when regulating banks – a clear advantage over his current boss. Whoever the next Fed chair might be, Trump will need the supposedly independent central bank to keep interest rates low so as not to choke off the yearslong market rally that Trump has hailed as incontrovertible evidence of his success as commander in chief. Taylor, the progenitor of the so-called “Taylor rule”, might be more aggressive than Powell, which could be a problem.
On Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president will announce his pick "next week." Of course, the White House had previously hinted that it might have a decision this week. When trying to pin down expectations for when the announcement might arrive, reporters haven’t been able to do much better than “soon”.
Thanks to a spate of resignations, Trump will have the opportunity to fill no fewer than four of the seven seats on the Fed’s board of governors – including both chairman and vice chairman positions.
But regardless of whom Trump chooses or how many picks he decides to unveil at once, the president is clearly reveling in the process. In a video posted to the president’s Instagram on Friday – which he later tweeted out – Trump assured America that whoever he picks will *hopefully* do a great job. He added that he has "somebody specific" in mind.
We imagine it's only a matter of time before NBC launches "Celebrity Apprentice: Fed Chair Edition"...