Trump close to tapping Kudlow to succeed Cohn

 In Politics

President Donald Trump is close to choosing economic analyst Larry Kudlow as his new top economic policy adviser, according to three people briefed on the internal deliberations.

After souring on Kudlow because he publicly criticized the president’s decision to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Trump is now leaning heavily toward tapping the CNBC contributor and former Reagan administration official to lead the National Economic Council, the people said.

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One administration official said on Monday that an announcement could be imminent, perhaps within 24 hours. But others cautioned that the decision had not yet been finalized, adding that Trump has been known to change his mind without warning.

Trump spoke with Kudlow twice in recent days, according to a White House aide said, who added that the president has been impressed by his performance on cable news.

A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on Monday night.

The decision comes after the president sent mixed signals in recent days about whom he wanted for the job, leaving those around him struggling to keep up.

By Monday afternoon, at least two candidates to take over for Gary Cohn as director of the National Economic Council — NEC Deputy Director Shahira Knight and the White House director of strategic initiatives. Chris Liddell — appeared to be out of the running entirely, while Kudlow’s prospects had greatly improved.

Some White House officials said they were unsure as of Monday afternoon exactly what the president would decide — and when. Aides have grown accustomed to working for a president who often makes decisions without warning. Trump abruptly announced via Twitter last summer that John Kelly, who at the time was Homeland Security secretary, would become his chief staff.

The president’s revived interest in Kudlow to some extent reflects the White House’s limited options. Economists have widely panned Trump’s tariff decision, and some potential picks are hesitant to join an administration defined by chaos and facing an expanding special counsel investigation.

In the end, people close to both men said the final decision could come down to chemistry, a factor that bodes well for Kudlow. Trump feels comfortable with Kudlow, whom Trump has known for years. One person familiar with the issue said the president could simply call Kudlow and offer him the job, without bothering to go through a formal interview process.

“He brings a couple big assets to the table,” said conservative economist Stephen Moore. “One, he is a great communicator of economics, one of the best in the country, especially for the free-market ideas that Trump is mostly espousing. And two, Larry has really great relationships with members of Congress, certainly on the Republican side but also among Democrats who may disagree with him but like him.”

Moore added that even though Kudlow has argued against tariffs and other protectionist policies, he would back the president’s policies once they are finalized. “That’s certainly a condition of the job,” Moore said. “If you work for the president you have to stand by him.”

But Kudlow has detractors in the administration. One White House official noted that if Kudlow didn’t have a personal relationship with the president, he probably wouldn’t get past the administration’s informal personnel vetting standards, which have been used to sideline potential nominees who have been critical of Trump in the past.

Kudlow knocked Trump in 2016 after an audio recording was released in which Trump bragged about groping women during an appearance on “Access Hollywood.”

“The ‘vile’ tape, as I call it, is inexcusable. I was absolutely furious,” Kudlow said on CNBC at the time. He went on: “I hope Mr. Trump gets his act together. But if he continues to drop into these rabbit holes, I’ll write in Mr. Pence.”

People close to Kudlow said he was interested in succeeding Cohn and would accept the job. Kudlow declined to comment.

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