Presidents rarely interfere with Federal Reserve policy. In fact, it was the Clinton administration that adopted the stance that leaving the central bank alone is “essential to a healthy economy and to keep control of inflation,” Mishkin noted. All presidents until now have followed it, he added.
The Fed has raised interest rates twice this year and has indicated it will have two more hikes this year.
Trump told CNBC’s Joe Kernen that he does not approve, even though he put a “very good man in” at the Fed in Chair Jerome Powell.
“I’m not thrilled,” he said. “Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again. I don't really — I am not happy about it. But at the same time I’m letting them do what they feel is best.”
Mishkin called Trump’s comments “offhand” but added, “We don’t know whether, in fact, the pressure could become more intense from the president.”
“As of this moment, I would not see that this would be a big deal yet but on the other hand it is a danger sign,” he said.
In fact, Turkey is a prime example of what can go wrong, said Mishkin. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put a lot of pressure on the central bank to not raise rates to spur credit growth and construction.
“What was the result? A lot of inflation and actually a collapse of the Turkish lira,” he said.
Larry Lindsey, former top economic advisor to President George W. Bush and a one-time Fed governor, didn’t see Trump’s comments as an attack on the independence of the Fed.
“I do not think this will effect interest rate policy at all. Zero,” he told “Power Lunch.”
In fact, Trump is putting “strong independent individuals on the Fed. If he actually wanted to change policy, he wouldn’t do that,” he added.
Mishkin also thinks Trump’s comments won’t affect Fed policy. As for those who may believe policy is affected if the Fed pulls back on rate hikes, he said as long as the central bank’s communication is good, there will not be a problem.
“Jerome Powell is a very savvy guy,” he said. “If, in fact, they decide to not raise rates as rapidly as they said they were raising rates, the Fed is going to actually have to justify it and justify it on purely economic grounds,” he said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.