Jared Kushner praises Powell, says Fed chief ‘stepped up to the plate’ during coronavirus crisis

Finance news

White House senior advisor Jared Kushner on Thursday praised Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for his leadership of the central bank’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Look, you really see what people are made of in times of crisis and I think that Chairman Powell has really stepped up to the plate, and he’s done a lot of the right things to make sure that the market was able to get through the crisis,” Kushner said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

President Donald Trump has been a fierce critic of Powell and the Fed over their approach to monetary policy, saying last fall they had “no ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision!” On March 14, Trump, who appointed Powell, said he was “not happy” with the Fed over its response to the burgeoning coronavirus pandemic. “I think they’re following not leading, and we should be leading,” Trump said then. 

Just a day later, in an emergency move, the Fed announced it was slashing its benchmark interest rate to near zero, where it has stayed since, kick-starting a series of actions designed to shore up financial markets that had been rocked by the global health crisis. 

The Fed followed on March 17 with a program to help businesses acquire short-term funding and then on March 23, it unleashed an unprecedented basket of programs that included its first-ever pledge to buy corporate bonds. 

The S&P 500 had fallen from February records into a bear market in March as the Covid-19 outbreak intensified across the globe. But stocks have mounted a robust rally since March 23, with the S&P 500 setting another record high Wednesday. The benchmark equity index now sits about 58% above its coronavirus-era low, as of Wednesday’s close. 

Comments from Kushner on Thursday came shortly before Powell announced a “robust updating” of the Fed’s approach to inflation, with the central bank now being willing to allow inflation to run hotter than normal in an attempt to support the labor market and broader U.S. economy as recovers from pandemic-induced damage. 

Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, also praised the whole-of-government response to the coronavirus, which has included trillions of dollars of fiscal stimulus from Congress. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been a lead negotiator for the Trump administration on Capitol Hill. 

“It was a lot great work by obviously the president, the Vice President [Mike Pence], Secretary Mnuchin and obviously Chairman Powell,” he said. “I think they’ve all worked very well together to, again, get the country through a very, very difficult period. Now we obviously are in a better place than we would have been, but the opportunity to go ahead is really going to be tremendous.” 

— CNBC’s Jeff Cox contributed to this report.