When the president threatened China with $100 billion in new tariffs, there had hardly been any #White House discussion.
What I’m hearing: There wasn’t one single deliberative meeting in which senior officials sat down to debate the pros and cons of this historic threat. Trump didn’t even ask for advice from his new top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, instead presenting the tariffs as a fait accompli. Chief of Staff John Kelly knew Trump wanted more tariffs but was blindsided by the speed of the announcement. And Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short — the White House’s liaison to Capitol Hill — was totally in the dark.
To be sure, the president wasn’t completely freelancing. The topic came up at the senior staff meeting the morning of the announcement. And he personally ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to put together the threat and to get it done by Thursday. Trump said he had to protect American farmers, whom the Chinese were threatening with billions in tariffs.
But for some White House officials, the moment was jarring: Trump had melted down Capitol Hill and roiled the markets with zero substantive internal debate.
Several senior officials blame Mnuchin for the messy rollout. One source ripped him for “hiding the ball” by not looping enough people in after getting such a significant request from Trump.