Trump’s pick to replace Gary Cohn will tell you a lot about the direction of the White House

President Donald Trump.

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President Donald Trump.
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Getty Images/Pool

  • Gary Cohn, the National Economic Council director who was President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, is resigning.
  • A person who has advised Trump on economic issues told Business Insider that Larry Kudlow was the favorite to replace Cohn.
  • This person views Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget chief, as a dark-horse candidate.
  • Other names that have been floated include Peter Navarro, the director of the National Trade Council.
  • Trump’s pick for the position could indicate the future of his economic policy.

Speculation swirled Wednesday about who President Donald Trump would choose to replace Gary Cohn as his top economic adviser, as observers say that person could provide a significant clue about the future of the president’s agenda.

“The president’s got a number of people that could potentially fill that role,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told reporters Wednesday. “What I can assure you obviously is he’s going to make a good pick that can help him continue to further building a strong economy and continue creating jobs and continue focusing on long-term economic success.”

Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he would “choose wisely!”

A person who has advised Trump on economic issues told Business Insider that the frontrunner was Larry Kudlow, an economist in the Reagan administration who now appears prominently as a commentator on CNBC.

The person also said Mick Mulvaney, the director of both the Office and Management and Budget and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was viewed as a dark-horse candidate.

Another name that has been floated is Peter Navarro, the director of the National Trade Council who strongly advocates protectionist trade policies. Navarro denied his candidacy during an appearance on Bloomberg TV on Wednesday.

Others include Kevin Warsh, a former Federal Reserve governor, and Shahira Knight, the top tax adviser on the National Economic Council.

The stakes are high

The person Trump picks could determine whether the president can turn his protectionist trade tendencies into policy.

For months, Cohn was able to curb Trump’s ambitions for increased tariffs and trade restrictions. If Trump were to pick someone like Navarro, it would signal an embrace of the more restrictionist positions at the core of the president’s economic beliefs.

But if Trump were to pick Kudlow or someone similar, the White House would have a strong free-trade voice to counterbalance protectionist positions.

“The National Economic Council is a home base for economic alphas – Bob Rubin, Larry Summers, etc.,” Chris Krueger, an analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group, wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday. “Its stature rises and falls with its inhabitants. The Federal Reserve it is not.”