WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he's considering either re-nominating Janet Yellen for a second term as Fed chair or replacing her with someone else, possibly Gary Cohn, who leads his National Economic Council.
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Trump said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he has a "lot of respect" for Yellen and thinks she is serving capably. The president said he's still considering asking her to serve four more years after her term ends in February. But he said he's also considering other candidates, including Cohn, who joined the Trump administration after a 26-year career at Goldman Sachs.
Yellen has declined to say whether she wants to serve another term. She has said only that she is focused on doing her job and will remain in place through the end of her term Feb. 3.
When Yellen was chosen to be Fed chair by President Barack Obama, she became the first woman to lead the central bank, succeeding Ben Bernanke in 2014.
Trump said Cohn, who was present for the interview, didn't know he was under consideration for the Fed job. Cohn has been leading the search for the next Fed leader.
"I've known Gary for a long time, but I've gained great respect for Gary working with him, so Gary certainly would be in the mix," Trump said in the interview with the Journal.
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Cohn, 56, would be the first business executive to lead the Fed in 38 years, since the brief tenure of G. William Miller, from March 1978 to August 1979. Miller was installed by President Jimmy Carter, who would soon make Miller his Treasury secretary to make room for Paul Volcker as chairman of the Fed.
Cohn, an aggressive Wall Street operator who became president of Goldman Sachs in 2006, would mark a sharp break from the last four Fed chairs — Volcker, Alan Greenspan, Bernanke and Yellen. All came from the ranks of academia or government service. Volcker had served at Treasury and as president of the New York Federal Reserve.
In Tuesday's interview, Trump said of Yellen, "She is in the running, absolutely."
"I like her," he said. "I like her demeanor. I think she's done a good job."
The president added: "I'd like to see rates stay low. She's historically been a low-interest-rate person."
The president suggested that "two or three" other contenders were in the mix, but the Journal said he declined to name them. He said he probably wouldn't announce a nominee until the end of the year.
"It's early to make the decision," he said, noting that Yellen's term as Fed chair doesn't end until February. He predicted that the Senate confirmation process would move quickly.
The president's comments were the first he has made since published reports appeared earlier this month saying that Cohn had emerged as a leading candidate for the Fed job.
Trump was critical of Yellen during last year's presidential campaign, accusing her of keeping interest rates low to favor Democrats. But since winning the election, Trump has avoided criticizing Yellen, saying that he respects her and likes her low-rate policies.
Earlier this month, Yellen nominated Randal Quarles, a top Treasury official under two Republican presidents, to be the Fed's vice chairman for supervision. Quarles will appear Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee for his nomination hearing.
There are two other vacancies on the seven-member Fed board. Trump has yet to put forward nominations for those positions.