WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Saturday that he had the power to remove or demote Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, renewing a long-running threat against the central bank’s leader at a time when it could further roil volatile markets.

Mr. Trump said in a news conference at the White House that ousting Mr. Powell was not his current plan but that he was “not happy with the Fed” because it was “following” and “we should be leading.” He said he had the right to remove Mr. Powell as chair “and put him in a regular position and put somebody else in charge,” but added, “I haven’t made any decisions on that.”

While it was a familiar threat from a president who has continually beaten up on Mr. Powell, it was made in the midst of growing concern that the spread of the coronavirus could tip the United States into a recession.

The mere hint that Mr. Trump could fire Mr. Powell, or demote him to a Fed governor, risks further destabilizing markets by worrying investors, who are already fretting over the economic fallout from shut-down businesses, quarantined workers and curtailed activity.

Mr. Trump probably does not have the legal authority to fire Mr. Powell, whom he nominated in 2017 but who was confirmed by Congress. It is less clear whether the president could demote him, but if he tried, the Federal Open Market Committee — which sets interest rates — could still select Mr. Powell as its leader, rendering any new chair mostly irrelevant.

This is not the first time Mr. Trump has aired the idea of removing his hand-selected Fed chair. In December 2018, after the Fed raised rates, the president privately talked about firing Mr. Powell, telling advisers that the Fed chair would “turn me into Hoover,” a reference to the Great Depression-era president Herbert Hoover. The statements caused jitters on Wall Street.

Mick Mulvaney, who had recently been named the acting White House chief of staff, said in a subsequent television interview that Mr. Trump “now realizes he does not have the authority to fire” the Fed chair.

This time around, Mr. Tedeschi said he doubted the president would try to demote Mr. Powell, and was probably just trying to jawbone the central bank ahead of its meeting this week.

“I think people are used to it, at this point,” he said. “But it probably doesn’t help.”

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