Conservative economics pundit Stephen Moore has withdrawn his bid to be appointed to the Federal Reserve Board — within hours of boasting that he expected to be easily confirmed by the Senate — President Donald Trump said Thursday in a Twitter post.
Moore’s putative nomination for the central bank had faced intense criticism and scrutiny after Trump said he wanted him on the Federal Reserve board.
Moore, a 59-year-old visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation think tank, drew fire for his economic views, a messy divorce, a $75,000 IRS income tax lien and past statements that belittled women.
“This is kind of a victory lap for the left because they took me down with a smear campaign,” Moore said in an interview with Bloomberg News.
Moore, in his withdrawal letter to Trump, likewise blamed “the unrelenting attacks on my character,” which “have become untenable for me and my family and 3 more months of this would be too hard on us.”
A senior White House official told CNBC that the decision to pull the plug on Moore’s candidacy was made shortly before Trump tweeted that Moore was bowing out.
His withdrawal comes less than two weeks after businessman Herman Cain dropped out from Fed board contention because of opposition from a number of Republican senators. Moore likewise was facing pushback from multiple GOP senators this week.
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Two other Fed picks by Trump, Nellie Liang and Marvin Goodfriend, likewise failed`.
Not long before Trump’s announcement Thursday, Moore said in an interview with Bloomberg News that he disagrees with Trump’s call for the central bank to sharply cut rates.
“I’m not so sure I agree with the White House that we should cut rates by an entire percentage point,” said Moore, who has been critical of the Fed in the past. “I just don’t see the case for that right now.”
In that same interview, Moore said, “I think I’m going to win a big majority. ... Just because a senator today says they won’t vote for me doesn’t mean that three months from now they won’t.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, quickly called on Trump on Thursday to nominate “two serious candidates,” pointedly suggesting that Cain and Moore were anything that that.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia, told reporters that Moore’s withdrawal “was a good move, and I look forward to the next nominee.”
Asked if Moore’s case provided the White House with a lesson on vetting nominees for government posts, Capito quipped, “Read people’s articles that they write would be a good start.”
A White House official told CNBC that Moore’s nomination was still considered viable as of Wednesday.
Also Thursday, The Guardian newspaper, citing a source, said Moore had been shorting his ex-wife Allison for years on the amount he was obligated to pay her in alimony and child support under the terms of their divorce settlement. The Guardian said Moore was underpaying Allison by $8,000 per month.
A Virginia judge had found Moore in contempt of court in 2012 for reneging on more than $330,000 in settlement, alimony and child support payments to Allison. Moore avoided a court-ordered sale of his home only after paying Allison two-thirds of what he owed her at the time.
Trump had yet to officially nominate Moore for the Fed board, which requires Senate confirmation. Several Republican senators had indicated the bid was in trouble.
“Very unlikely that I would support that person,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told reporters when asked about a potential Moore nomination.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., told The Washington Post that confirming Moore would be a “very heavy lift.”
The GOP has a 53-47 edge in the Senate, so Moore could only afford to lose three Republicans. The term for the Fed board role is 14 years.
Despite the steady criticism and revelations about his previous writings, Moore continued to fight for his shot for a seat on the Fed. “You know, they’re pulling a Kavanaugh against me,” he told a radio interviewer in late April, referring to how Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination was imperiled by late-stage accusations of sexual misconduct.
“If it comes down to things I wrote 18 years ago that were impolitic, that I’ve apologized for, that were, you know, insulting, then I’m in trouble,” he told CNBC in an interview April 30. “If it comes to economic ideas, then I’ll be fine.”
While Moore, a conservative pundit and former member of The Wall Street Journal editorial board, had taken flak over his divorce and columns featuring jokes about AIDS and his ex-wife, his economic and political stances also came under fire. Greg Mankiw, a former economics advisor to President George W. Bush, had said Moore doesn’t have the “intellectual gravitas for this important job.”
There were also concerns that Moore could politicize the Fed, given his allegiance to Trump. Both men have been critical of Fed Chairman Jerome Powell for raising interest rates, which, Moore and Trump argued, put a damper on otherwise persistent U.S. economic growth.
Moore advised the Trump campaign on economic policy and the Trump administration during the push for the 2017 tax-cut bill. He also co-wrote the book “Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Get Our Economy Back on Track,” which was published in October. Moore is also a longtime associate of Larry Kudlow, the former CNBC contributor who now serves as Trump’s top economic advisor.
Cain, a former Kansas City Fed chairman, like Moore is an outspoken defender of Trump and a critic of the Fed. Cain’s candidacy for a spot on the central bank’s board revived past accusations of sexual misconduct against him that arose during his failed bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. He has denied the allegations.
Moore’s letter to Trump said:
I was honored and grateful that you asked me to serve on the Federal Reserve Board. Your economic policies have been a spectacular success for American workers. Record low unemployment, 3.2% growth, seven million job openings, and a near 40% rise in the stock market with five quarters now of 3% economic growth, something your critics said could never happen. Trumponomics has been VINDICATED.
Your confidence in me makes what I am about to say much harder. I am respectfully asking that you withdraw my name from consideration. The 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.
As you know, for the last four years nearly since the start of your campaign for President, I have been an advocate of your economic agenda and am proud to have played a small role in helping make that happen. I will continue to be a loud economic voice advocating for your policies, which will keep us on a prosperous path of 3 to 4% growth with rising wages and low inflation for as far as the eye can see,. I am always at your disposal.
With the greatest regards and respect.
- Additional reporting by CNBC’s Eamon Javers
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