By Jonathan Easely
President Trump has picked CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow to be the next White House economic adviser.
Kudlow accepted the president’s offer in a telephone call on Monday night.
“Larry Kudlow was offered, and accepted, the position of assistant to the president for economic policy and director of the National Economic Council,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “We will work to have an orderly transition and will keep everyone posted on the timing of him officially assuming the role.”
Kudlow will replace Gary Cohn, who resigned after disagreeing with the president’s decision to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Before becoming a familiar presence on television at CNBC, Kudlow worked for the Federal Reserve and the Reagan administration. He acted as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign, helping to craft an initial tax plan in the run-up to the election and advocating for the GOP tax law.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trump praised Kudlow for supporting his campaign and described him as a rare financial talent.
“I've known him a long time,” Trump said “We don't agree on everything. In this case I think it's good. I want a diversity of opinion … He backed me very early in the campaign, I think the earliest. I think he was one of my original backers. He's a very, very talented man.”
Like Cohn, Kudlow has also said he opposes tariffs. But the president suggested that Kudlow had warmed to the idea, at least as a negotiating tactic for trade agreements.
“He’s come around to believing in tariffs,” Trump said of Kudlow. “I'm renegotiating great deals. Without tariffs we wouldn't do nearly as well.”
Kudlow, who is an opinion contributor for The Hill, said over the weekend that he’s not opposed to “targeted tariffs” against China, calling Beijing a “key problem” for the U.S. The president has long railed against the Chinese for “ripping off” the U.S. through currency manipulation and for flooding the U.S. market with steel and other metals.
“It’s a Trumpian way of negotiating,” Kudlow said on CNBC over the weekend. “You knock them in the teeth and get their attention. And then you kind of work out a deal and I think that's what he’s done. My hat’s off to him. He had me really worried. Now I’m not.”
In the interview with The Wall Street Journal, Kudlow said the president reassured him that he believes in free trade.
“He said to me several times, ‘I believe in global trade. I regard myself as a global trader, but it has to be fair trade to protect America,’” Kudlow said. “I’m on board with that. I personally hope widespread tariff use — it doesn’t come to that. But in some cases, it will.”
Conservative free trade groups praised the move.
“With the departure of Gary Cohn, many were concerned that an important voice for free markets would be missing from the administration,” said Merrill Matthews, a scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation. “Appointing Larry Kudlow should relieve those fears.”
In a statement to The Hill, CNBC Chairman Mark Hoffman praised Kudlow as “part of the fabric” of the network, wishing him luck at his future endeavors.
“Larry is a thoughtful, tenacious and gracious gentleman who possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of markets, economics and public policy. He has the unique ability to make the most complex concepts comprehensible and accessible,” Hoffman said.
The national economic adviser position is one of several key roles the White House is looking to fill.
Trump on Tuesday removed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from his post. He has tapped CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be the nation’s top diplomat and Gina Haspel to replace Pompeo at the CIA.
White House communications director Hope Hicks is also on the way out, leaving open a key strategic communications job within the administration.
And there is speculation that Trump could continue to clean house among his Cabinet members and senior advisers, with Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and national security adviser H.R. McMaster believed to be on thin ice.