Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross steered an angry President Donald Trump into backing an aluminum and steel tariff over the objections of other senior White House officials.
Trump was furious Wednesday evening over Hope Hicks’ testimony before lawmakers, his ongoing feud with attorney general Jeff Sessions and what he perceives as unfair treatment of son-in-law Jared Kushner by White House chief of staff John Kelly, reported NBC News.
“The president became ‘unglued,’ in the words of one official familiar with the president’s state of mind,” the network reported.
That’s when Ross and Peter Navarro, the White House director for trade, pushed Trump to launch a trade war with the tariff.
Ross had already set up a White House meeting with steel and aluminum executives for 11 a.m. Thursday, but a source told NBC News the commerce secretary hadn’t told other White House officials who was coming.
That left the White House unable to conduct background checks on the executives to ensure the president should meet with them, and they were not able to be cleared for entry by the Secret Service.
Kelly, the embattled chief of staff, was unaware of their names, NBC reported.
The White House had no position papers or announcements ready for the tariff policy by late Wednesday, and the White House counsel’s office had already said they’d need at least two weeks to complete a legal review of the policy.
Another White House official responded to NBC News by insisting the communications team, still led for now by Hicks, who announced her resignation Wednesday afternoon, was “well-prepared to support the president’s announcement.”
The communications team also partially denied the report about Ross sidestepping procedures to bring in industry executives to meet with Trump.
“Many of the attendees had been in the White House before and had already been vetted for attendance at a presidential event,” the communications team said.
Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson