- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2018

President Trump is rotating in Larry Kudlow to be his chief economic adviser as part of a dizzying shake-up of top administration officials, with more firings and resignations on the horizon.

Mr. Kudlow, an economic analyst and former host of CNBC’s “Kudlow Report,” was picked to replace outgoing National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.

Mr. Cohn, a Democrat, announced his resignation last week after fiercely opposing Mr. Trump’s move to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Mr. Kudlow also opposes tariffs, but that wasn’t a deal-breaker for Mr. Trump.

“I’ve known him a long time,” the president said Tuesday as he prepared to make the job offer. “We don’t agree on everything. But in this case, I think that’s good. I want to have a divergent opinion.”

Later that evening, Mr. Trump called Mr. Kudlow and asked him to join the West Wing crew.

Mr. Kudlow confirmed that he accepted the offer in an interview Wednesday with WABC Radio host Rita Cosby.

“I am thrilled and honored to serve this president. I am ready to serve President Trump and the country,” he said.

Mr. Cohn’s resignation was one in a series of changes in the top ranks of the administration.

Mr. Trump on Tuesday ousted Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, whom he had repeatedly rebuked for not adhering to his agenda.

In the past three months, the White House bade goodbye to Mr. Trump’s personal assistant John McEntee, Communications Director Hope Hicks, Deputy Communications Director Josh Raffel, staff secretary Rob Porter, public liaison aide Omarosa Manigault Newman and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell.

There is rampant speculation that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin also are heading for the exit.

Despite breaking with the president on key policy issues, Mr. Kudlow has a solid history with Mr. Trump. He served as an informal adviser during the campaign and helped craft the Trump tax cut plan.

Mr. Trump said Mr. Kudlow had come around in recent conversations to believe that tariffs could be used as “negotiating points.”

“You know, I am renegotiating trade deals, and without tariffs, we would not do nearly as well,” said the president.

Mr. Kudlow echoed Mr. Trump’s tough talk on China in a CNBC interview after he accepted the job.

“I must say, as somebody who doesn’t like tariffs, I think China has earned a tough response not only from the United States,” he said.

Mr. Kudlow holds other views that buck Mr. Trump‘s. He has voiced opposition to ripping up the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Mr. Trump threatens to do if it isn’t rewritten to his satisfaction.

The selection of Mr. Kudlow was applauded by free trade conservatives, who hoped he would serve as a check on Mr. Trump’s protectionist tendencies.

Mr. Trump’s political opponents slammed his choice.

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the liberal activist group American Bridge, said Mr. Kudlow has called Medicare and Social Security “bad ideas,” opposed a minimum wage, dismissed complaints of a gender pay gap as nonsense and proposed eliminating the Department of Commerce.

“His fringe beliefs are perfect for Trump but wrong for the country,” Mr. Bates said.

The administration attempted to beat back rumors about additional personnel changes and the perception of chaos in the West Wing.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry rejected mounting speculation that the president intends to tap him to replace Mr. Shulkin. He said he was not interested in the VA job and called the reports “fake news.”

“I am energy secretary from now until the foreseeable future — happily,” the former Texas governor told reporters after a congressional hearing.

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah, asked about a firing of Mr. Shulkin, told reporters that he had not heard that for certain.

“I don’t want to sit here and respond to every single rumor mill, piece of speculation that’s thrown out there,” he said. “The president has confidence in his entire team. When he does not, you guys will know about it.”

Still, the president has been irritated by Mr. Shulkin’s missteps, including a recent internal watchdog report that found the secretary wasted taxpayer dollars on a trip he took with his wife to Europe last summer. Mr. Shulkin is the lone member of the Trump Cabinet who is a holdover from the Obama administration; he previously served as a VA undersecretary.

The VA had no comment on the situation.

The White House also has been fending off speculation that Mr. Trump intends to replace Mr. McMaster, a target of conservatives, as national security adviser.

Former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney, president and CEO of the Center for Security Policy, referred to Mr. McMaster as “Tillerson’s enabler” and called on Mr. Trump to replace him with former Bush administration envoy John R. Bolton.

Also Wednesday, more than two dozen Democrats demanded that Mr. Trump fire his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, from his roles in the White House, saying his security clearance problems and business conflicts of interest make him unfit to serve.

Led by Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., Virginia Democrat, the lawmakers wrote a letter to Chief of Staff John F. Kelly laying out their case. They said a number of other countries have reportedly identified Mr. Kushner as a manipulatable figure close to the president.

“It is impossible for the American people or their elected Representatives to have faith that Jared Kushner will put their interests above his own personal and financial interests,” the lawmakers said. “The only path forward is clear: Jared Kushner must resign immediately. If he will not, we believe it is your duty as White House chief of staff to fire him.”

Mr. Kelly limited Mr. Kushner’s access to secret information after it was revealed that his background check was still being processed.

• Stephen Dinan contributed to this article.


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