It was just 24 hours ago, when a headline hit announcing that Peter Navarro, the recently reincarnated architect of Trump’s tariff tactics presently roiling Washington, was not in the running for the director of the National Economic Council post being vacated by “globalist” Gary Cohn helped reassure shaky markets, sending stocks higher.
It turns out that he is after all, and a report from Axios claiming that Navarro is running a stealthy campaign to fill Cohn’s old job had the opposite effect, helping spook stocks.
According to Axios, “publicly, Navarro has been coy, telling Bloomberg TV he’s not in the running for the job. But privately, the hardcore trade adviser is all in for the job” which in turn has “terrified” D.C. As reported yesterday, stocks spiked in the middle of the day when BBG first reported that Navarro had no “Cohn” career intentions.
“Sources familiar with Navarro’s thinking” told Axios there are too many people inside the White House who oppose the president’s agenda – especially on trade, and the president would like to remedy this.
Cohn reportedly tried to undercut Navarro at every turn, telling colleagues that Navarro “had no idea what he was doing, no grasp of economics, and constantly “lied to the president.”
Navarro, meanwhile, has always been a favorite of Trump for his willingness to reflect the president’s “hard-wired” view on trade – something that only Navarro, US trade rep Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross share. Trump would sometimes reportedly ask “Where’s Peter?” when Cohn and other White House staff had “forgotten” to tell him about a meeting.
To be sure, Trump is considering up to a dozen possible replacements for Cohn, who has been advocating for Shahira Knight, a senior figure on the NEC, is well-regarded on the Hill and played a crucial role in passing tax reform, to succeed him. Trump has only said that a replacement will be chosen “soon.”
But until a choice is made, it remains foolish to rule Navarro out.