The "nationalists" in President Trump's White House have had a bad run lately, with chief strategist Stephen Bannon, national security aide Sebastian Gorka, and several allies on the National Security Council pushed out over the past month. But the more moderate faction shouldn't get too comfortable, either, Jonathan Swan reports at Axios.
First, Swan recounts an Oval Office meeting on trade during Chief of Staff John Kelly's first week on the job, earlier this month, attended by Trump, Kelly, Bannon, top economic adviser Gary Cohn, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and senior trade adviser Peter Navarro. Trump let Kelly know he wanted tariffs against China. "John, you haven't been in a trade discussion before, so I want to share with you my views," he said, according to several Axios sources. "For the last six months, this same group of geniuses comes in here all the time and I tell them, 'Tariffs. I want tariffs.' And what do they do? They bring me IP. I can't put a tariff on IP." (You actually can use tariffs to combat Chinese IP theft, Swan notes.)
During this discussion, Cohn, who opposes tariffs, apparently looked appalled at Trump's comments. "John, let me tell you why they didn't bring me any tariffs," Trump reportedly continued. "I know there are some people in the room right now that are upset. I know there are some globalists in the room right now. And they don't want them, John, they don't want the tariffs. But I'm telling you, I want tariffs." "Globalist" is the preferred word for Cohn at Bannon's news outlet, Breitbart.
Trump is also getting "increasingly frustrated" with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Swan reports. There are several reasons, including staffing disputes, but after one recent meeting on Afghanistan, Trump reportedly said, "Rex just doesn't get it, he's totally establishment in his thinking." Trump's increasing annoyance at Tillerson probably won't be helped by Tillerson's distancing himself from Trump's comments on the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, to Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. You can read more about Trump's apparent beefs with Cohn and Tillerson at Axios. Peter Weber