Trump says second pick to Fed board withdraws from consideration

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Washington (AFP)

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that conservative economic commentator Stephen Moore has withdrawn from consideration to become a member of the Federal Reserve Board, the president's second candidate to pull out.

"Steve Moore, a great pro-growth economist and a truly fine person, has decided to withdraw from the Fed process," Trump said on Twitter, moments after Moore told Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal that he would stay in the race.

Trump's other candidate, businessman and long-shot presidential candidate Herman Cain, also pulled out of the race to fill one of two remaining openings on the central bank board.

Trump has repeatedly ignored norms designed to protect the independent Fed from political influence, which could undermine its credibility, lambasting the central bank for raising interest rates and even this week calling for a drastic cut.

In that atmosphere, his nominations of Moore and Cain were viewed by some as an attempt to bring pressure from the inside. They also were criticized for their lack of qualifications, including by Republicans in the Senate.

Five of the 53 Republicans in the 100-member chamber told AFP there were serious problems with Moore's candidacy.

Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa hardened her opposition after the emergence of articles and speeches by Moore over the years, some of which have been criticized as sexist or trafficking in racism.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said Moore never should have been considered for the post.

"First, Cain. Now, Moore. Thank goodness neither were actually nominated," Schumer said in a statement.

"The only thing less funny than some of Mr. Moore's tasteless, offensive, sexist 'jokes' was the idea that President Trump would even consider him for a seat on the Federal Reserve."

- 'Economic malpractice' -

Moore, a 59-year-old economic and political commentator, advised Trump when he was running for president and has publicly expressed his opposition to raising interest rates, calling the last hike in December "economic malpractice."

He gave two interviews published within an hour of Trump's tweet saying he was staying in the race, and that a White House official had encouraged him to remain.

"I sure am," Moore told Bloomberg when asked if he would persist in seeking a Fed seat. "I'm not too concerned about this."

In interviews this week, he tried to walk back some of his comments about women, such as complaining that women's wage gains were now faster the men's, warning of dangers to families.

Trump said on Twitter that he asked Moore "to work with me toward future economic growth in our Country."

The Fed has a seven-member board but has had openings for many months.

Trump has named three current Fed members to the board, including Vice Chairman Richard Clarida, and also promoted Jerome Powell to his current post as board chairman.

Moore in December called on Trump to fire Powell for "wrecking the economy."

In a news conference on Wednesday, Powell once again was called on to defend the central bank's independence.

"We don't think about short term political considerations, we don't discuss them and we don't consider them in making our decisions one way or the other," he said.