According to a report in Politico, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is “miserable” because General John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, is limiting his access to President Trump.
This comes as Navarro was already feeling the loss of Steve Bannon, who shared much of his ideology, in the White House.
High school cafeteria drama aside, this should relieve anyone concerned about the health of the global economy. Navarro, an economist with no background in trade, is known for having some of the most zealously anti-globalization views in the White House.
He’s incorrectly accused Germany of taking advantage of the “grossly undervalued” euro, which trickled into the President’s own rhetoric. He’s demonstrated a cavalier attitude about American job losses. And he seems to misunderstand the underlying problems with our economy.
Economists of all stripes have been worried about Navarro’s influence since he joined the White House. He’s been spoiling for a destabilizing trade fight since he got to Washington. And, unfortunately, that’s where he and the President have seen eye-to-eye. In one of the odder details of the report, Politico said that Trump has referred to Navarro as “my Peter.”
In the most disturbing detail of the report, one source said that Trump was growing increasingly tired of being told to wait on trade policy.
“I get the sense that the president is tired of being told that he can’t do X,Y or Z in the trade space,” one White House official told Politico. “I think he’s lost patience with it. I don’t see how the free-trade camp in the West Wing can continue to put the brakes on this stuff. I think they’re going to have to choose what they want to prioritize.”
Kelly has been systematically sidelining people in the White House who rile up the President. Navarro is one of them. His borderline-xenophobic rhetoric about China’s economy suits the President’s narrative about how it has taken advantage of the United States.
Of course, Kelly’s attempt to downplay Navarro’s influence doesn’t necessarily mean that Trump won’t take aggressive action on trade. The Politico report says not only that the president is itching to do something, but also that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sometimes agree with Navarro anyway.
There are other signs that the administration is gearing up to take action too. Lighthizer’s office is in the midst of hiring around 60 people, which is a lot for an administration that has been slow to staff the government.