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Political Notebook

Mulvaney, Mnuchin say Trump knows he lacks authority to fire Fed chairman

President Trump was displayed on a screen at the New York Stock Exchange during another tumultuous week there.
President Trump was displayed on a screen at the New York Stock Exchange during another tumultuous week there.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, responding to news reports that President Trump was inquiring about firing the Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, said he now understands he lacks the authority to do so.

Mulvaney, the incoming acting White House chief of staff, made his comments Sunday, echoing comments made by Mnuchin. Their statements came after news reports began circulating that Trump had asked aides whether he could fire Powell. The Fed has traditionally operated independently of the presidency as it seeks to keep inflation stable and the economy running at maximum employment.

Trump previously told advisers that Powell will “turn me into Hoover,” a reference to Great Depression-era President Herbert Hoover. Trump has also repeatedly criticized the Fed for increasing interest rates, criticism the president doubled down on this weekend even as he denied suggesting firing Powell.

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In two tweets Saturday, Mnuchin said that he had spoken with Trump and that the president had told him: “I totally disagree with Fed policy. I think the increasing of interest rates and the shrinking of the Fed portfolio is an absolute terrible thing to do at this time, especially in light of my major trade negotiations which are ongoing, but I never suggested firing Chairman Jay Powell, nor do I believe I have the right to do so.”

In response to a question about whether Trump believes he has the authority to fire Powell, Mulvaney said on ABC’s “This Week” that the president did not believe he did.

“I did speak with the treasury secretary last night about a bunch of things, including the lapse in appropriations and the shutdown, and he did mention that to me,” Mulvaney said.

Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told Politico that Trump needs to be “very careful” how he proceeds with Powell.

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New York Times

Absentee ballots at issue in disputed North Carolina race

Affidavits released Sunday by North Carolina’s elections board allege absentee ballots were collected from voters by the man at the center of vote fraud allegations or those working for him.

These latest documents focus on last month’s 9th Congressional District race, the year’s only unresolved congressional election. Investigators are looking into whether McCrae Dowless and others working on behalf of GOP candidate Mark Harris ran an illegal operation to collect large numbers of absentee ballots from voters in at least two counties.

In the batch of affidavits released Sunday, registered voter Christopher Eason of Bladenboro alleges he gave his signed but otherwise blank mail-in absentee ballot directly to Dowless, who had been hired by the chief strategist for Harris’s campaign. It’s illegal for anyone other than a close relative or guardian to take a person’s ballot.

Another voter, Hazel Guyton of Bladenboro, said in an affidavit that she filled out her absentee ballot and Dowless and a woman stopped by to pick it up. She said he’d been ‘‘doing that for me for several years,’’ though she states she suffers no legal disabilities.

Dowless is a ‘‘person of interest’’ in an ongoing criminal investigation into irregularities in the 9th District race. His attorney, Cynthia Adams Singletary, did not answer Sunday calls but has asserted previously that Dowless hasn’t broken any campaign laws.

Associated Press

From golf resorts to condos, Trump businesses take hit

When workers pried the Trump name off another Manhattan building earlier this year, it capped a bad few weeks for the president’s businesses.

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Trump’s golf resorts in Scotland had just posted millions of dollars in losses, one of his hotels in Panama had rebranded itself a Marriott, and New York officials announced they were looking into how he avoided paying tens of millions in taxes.

All that, along with the daily drumbeat of Trump tweets and headlines about investigations into his administration, led Austin, Texas, tech executive Gary Barrett to finally give up hope of ever turning a profit on an apartment he bought as an investment in a Trump tower in Las Vegas.

‘‘People with enough cash to buy these units seem to be shying away from the Trump name,’’ says Barrett, calling it ‘‘the Trump effect.’’

From golf fees and licensing deals to prices for Trump condos, many metrics used to gauge his business in the first two years of his presidency are down as the divisive comments and policies so beloved by his political base have turned off a group just as dear to him — the affluent who fuel his businesses.

‘‘He can be very polarizing. . . . The brand has been diminished,’’ says Jeff Lotman, CEO of licensing firm Global Icons. New York brand consultant Robert Passikoff puts it more bluntly: ‘‘The Trump brand has lost its mojo.’’

Associated Press