President Trump’s top economic adviser arranged a meeting in the Oval Office last week with outside experts who told the president that a continued escalation of the trade war between the U.S. and China could hurt both the economy and Trump’s reelection chances in 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Larry Kudlow, the director of the White House National Economic Council, set the meeting for Oct. 8, just two days before Chinese and U.S. officials were scheduled to meet to negotiate trade talks, according to the Journal, citing people familiar with the meeting.
Stephen Moore, an economic commentator and former Federal Reserve Board candidate, as well as Lawrence Lindsey, a Republican economist, were reportedly present.
“There was a general consensus that the economy was really strong, the best economy we’ve had in 30 years, and that what’s going to get him reelected is the economy,” Moore said, according to the report.
“We all agreed that the uncertainty about the trade situation with China is a negative,” he continued.
Moore and his colleagues reportedly urged Trump to resolve the trade tensions, saying it would remove “that obstacle to growth right now, you’ll see a nice rebound in 2020, and he’ll be in a very strong position to get reelected,” the Journal reported.
But Trump during the meeting pointed the finger at the Federal Reserve, saying it deserves to share blame for the economic downturn.
Trump has called on the Fed for months to cut interest rates more drastically than their previous moves. Moore told the Journal that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and Trump are “in a much better place now.” Trump has been a vocal critic of Powell.
Trump also reportedly called in one of his closest advisers on China, Peter Navarro, into the meeting. Navarro has said the tariffs on Chinese goods are not hurting the U.S.
“Where’s Peter?” Trump said, the Journal reported. “Get Navarro in here.”
Navarro reportedly joined the meeting minutes later.
It was not immediately clear what impact the meeting had on the president’s stance on trade talks with China.
Last week, the U.S. agreed to delay a round of tariff increases on Chinese goods, and China agreed to increase spending on U.S. agricultural goods.
A Trump administration official confirmed to the Journal that the president hears from a number of different advisers before making decisions on trade talks. The official said his support of the last week’s “first phase” limited trade deal was based on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s negotiations, not due to the meeting.
The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.
Cohn, a supporter of free trade, left the White House in March 2018 after disagreeing with Trump’s decision to institute steel and aluminum tariffs.
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