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Moore Bails as Trump's Fed Pick

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(Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump’s selection for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Stephen Moore, is pulling out of consideration for the job hours after he said he was “all in” for the central bank.

Trump said on Twitter Thursday afternoon that Moore decided to withdraw, a move that came amid growing objections to his potential nomination among Senate Republicans.

“I’ve asked Steve to work with me toward future economic growth in our Country,” Trump said in a tweet.

Hours earlier, Moore said in an interview with Bloomberg News that he spoke to someone at the White House on Wednesday and had no indication he would not be nominated. “My biggest ally is the president,” he said. “He’s full speed ahead.”

“I’m all in,” Moore said.

Moore’s exit comes less than two weeks after Trump’s pick for another Fed seat — former Godfather’s Pizza Inc. Chief Executive Officer Herman Cain — withdrew from consideration as criticism related to sexual harassment allegations eroded support for him.

Moore was described by some critics as a threat to the Fed. In addition to being an unpredictable commentator and unorthodox economic thinker, Moore struck some economists as a partisan pick who might inject a short-term political agenda into monetary policy deliberations, which central bank independence is designed to guard against.

In a statement after Trump’s tweet, Moore said he was withdrawing because “unrelenting attacks on my character have become untenable for me and my family and 3 more months of this would be too hard on us. ” He said he’d continue to be a “loud economic voice” advocating Trump’s policies.

He said in the earlier interview that he believed he’d win votes from some Senate Democrats if he could advance to a confirmation hearing before the chamber’s Banking Committee. Moore said he expected Trump to formally nominate him for the Fed within about three weeks.

But he said that he’d withdraw if Trump decides that’s best.

“I’m going to do what the president wants me to do,” he said. “If he wants me to keep fighting, I’m going to keep fighting. If he thinks it’s time to throw in the towel, I’ll do that.”

Moore expressed surprise at push-back to his candidacy from Senate Republicans, including Iowa’s Joni Ernst and South Dakota’s John Thune, the second-ranking GOP leader. They have raised concerns about Moore’s past writings in which he disparaged women, and some senators have questioned whether he’s sufficiently independent from the White House.

“Some of the stuff about women that’s come out, this was all humorous, meant to be humorous pieces,” Moore said. “Certainly that’s caused some problems with a number of the senators. So my strategy is I want to sit down with them in the weeks ahead.”

He said of Ernst’s concerns specifically: “Just because she’s ‘no’ today doesn’t mean she’s ‘no’ three months from now. The world is going to be very different two months from now.”

Moore said he doesn’t always side with the president. For example, he said he disagreed with Trump’s suggestion on Tuesday that the Fed cut interest rates by as much as a full percentage point and resume bond purchases.

Moore said he was unsure whether it was appropriate for Trump to comment on Fed decisions, and allowed that it risked undermining the central bank’s independence. He depicted himself as a potential maverick on the board with strong opinions; he called the Fed’s December interest rate increase “economic malpractice,” before retreating and saying his words were “overly charged.”

The Fed’s chairman, Jerome Powell, whom Moore wrote should have been fired after the December decision, “is learning on the job,” Moore said Thursday.

“I think if we can steer the discussion away from things that I wrote 20, 25 years ago and more towards what I believe in terms of the economy and Fed policy and how to create growth and stable prices, I think I am going to win a big majority,” he said later in a Bloomberg Television interview.

The 59-year-old chief economist of the conservative Heritage Foundation served as an adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign and penned a book titled “Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Get Our Economy Back on Track.” He holds a master’s degree in economics from George Mason University in Virginia.

Once an advocate for higher interest rates who worried about runaway inflation, Moore now calls for low rates and, pointing to commodity prices, suggests the economy may be heading into deflation.

Moore joined the president in criticizing the Fed’s late-2018 policy tightening, and told Trump during an Oval Office visit in December that he “always thought” Powell was a bad choice for the post and that the Fed is a “swamp,” he recounted during a radio appearance.

Given his recent history of anti-Fed rhetoric and his ties to the White House, news of Moore’s nomination had stoked concerns about central bank independence. By design, monetary policy makers do not answer to the president, leaving them free to make decisions that will cause near-term economic pain but will encourage longer-term economic sustainability.

CNN reported in April that Moore had written columns for the National Review more than a decade ago that derided women. His arguments included that women should not be allowed to referee men’s college basketball games, and that woman athletes advocating for pay equality wanted the same money “for inferior work.” Moore told the network that the columns were a “spoof.”

Then there’s his spat with the Internal Revenue Service. A federal tax lien filed in the circuit court for Montgomery County, Maryland, where Moore owns a house, says that the government won a judgment against Moore for $75,328.80. The January 2018 filing said it was for unpaid taxes from the 2014 tax year and could accrue additional penalties and other costs. Moore has said that he took a “mistaken deduction” and that he’s subsequently overpaid his taxes.

Moore was also found in contempt of court after he failed to pay his ex-wife some $300,000 in alimony after their 2010 divorce, the Guardian reported, citing court records. Moore said in a radio interview on April 1 that he and his ex-wife are on good terms now.

As a Governor, he would’ve had a constant vote on monetary policy, and would’ve been one of 18 voices on the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee.


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