President Trump is currently besieged by crisis and he’s reportedly acting like more of a loose cannon than usual, sources told NBC News and the New York Times. As such, the embattled commander-in-chief impulsively announced raising tariffs on steel and aluminum imports on Thursday, thus triggering concerns about a trade war that sent the stock market into free fall and prompted senior aide Gary Cohn to threaten his resignation.
White House officials told NBC News that almost all of Trump’s aides were blindsided by the tariff hike announcement, which was reportedly prompted by the the president’s fury regarding the ongoing Russia probe, his war with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his chief of staff stripping son-in-law Jared Kushner of his interim security clearance, and his trusted aide, Hope Hicks, exiting the White House amid mounting legal debt.
As one source in proximity to the president said, Trump became “unglued” on Wednesday night. The angry and impulsive president was then reportedly egged on to start a trade war by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House trade director Peter Navarro, despite Cohn’s opposition.
The events leading up to Trump’s surprise Thursday tariff announcement are believed to be partially the result of a heated president gone rogue and partially the result of a dysfunctional system inside the White House impeded the constant loss of staffers. From NBC News:
There were no prepared, approved remarks for the president to give at the planned meeting, there was no diplomatic strategy for how to alert foreign trade partners, there was no legislative strategy in place for informing Congress and no agreed upon communications plan beyond an email cobbled together by Ross’s team at the Commerce Department late Wednesday that had not been approved by the White House.
No one at the State Department, the Treasury Department or the Defense Department had been told that a new policy was about to be announced or given an opportunity to weigh in in advance.
The Thursday morning meeting did not originally appear on the president’s public schedule. Shortly after it began, reporters were told that Ross had convened a “listening” session at the White House with 15 executives from the steel and aluminum industry.
Then, an hour later, in an another unexpected move, reporters were invited to the Cabinet room. Without warning, Trump announced on the spot that he was imposing new strict tariffs on imports.
Another official disputed this series of events, telling NBC News that the press shop was prepared for the announcement and that “many of the attendees had been in the White House before and had already been vetted for attendance at a presidential event.”
On Friday morning, Ross appeared on CNBC to defend his boss’s impulsive announcement with a few visual aids.
Here’s U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross using cans of soup, beer, and soda to defend steel and aluminum tariffs. pic.twitter.com/XJWw8MoRGo
— CNBC (@CNBC) March 2, 2018
Yeah, that should put everyone at ease.