Guest post by Peter Navarro
Who is the inside mole who helped the FBI in its jackboot raid on Mar-a-Lago? Who knows? It’s just one more example of a bad personnel choice within the House of Trump leading not just to bad policy but to bad politics.
Following that FBI raid, one of the worst personnel choices during my Trump days in the White House to jump on my old Boss has been former Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. The last time I saw this ungrateful Mick, he was cleaning out his White House office and readying himself for the beautiful gift of an ambassadorship to Northern Ireland – a sinecure the Boss over-generously gave Mick after Mulvaney’s big mouth almost got Trump impeached.
Of course, Mulvaney is not the only former White House insider who has trashed the Boss. Others like Larry Kudlow, Stephanie Grisham, Alyssa Farah, and Kayleigh McEnany have all been far too quick to disavow Trump to get back in the good graces of the corporate media and thereby land lucrative TV gigs. Yet, Mulvaney sticks most in my craw every time I see this cocky windbag wax ineloquent with another gratuitous slap at his benefactor – CBS must pay Mick by the Trump bash.
Mulvaney is an extreme version of a Libertarian opposed to any kind of market intervention. Accordingly, Mick strongly opposed the twin pillars of the Trump MAGA economic policy – Buy American and trade tariffs. Mick did so first as Office of Management and Budget Director and then as Acting Chief; and as the tip of Trump’s MAGA spear, I was constantly at odds with this Fifth Columnist.
My first inevitable clash with Mulvaney would come quickly in 2017 over the Jones Act. This oldest expression of Buy American legislation requires all ships carrying cargo between two US ports to be American-built, -owned, -crewed, and -flagged; and it is the single most important congressional act bolstering America’s shipbuilding industry.
When Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan wanted to eliminate a major Jones Act loophole favoring Big Oil, Mulvaney called a special meeting in his OMB office to kill it. From that day on, the gloves were off between me and this anti-MAGA Mick.
Over the next several years, dealing with Mulvaney’s continual sabotage of the president’s Buy American and tariff initiatives was as exhausting as it should have been unnecessary. I would have to continually ask myself how anti-Trumpers like Mulvaney and Gary Cohn and Rex Tillerson and John Kelly ever got in the front door. Bad personnel is bad politics indeed.
Thankfully, Mick’s reign of error would effectively come to a screeching halt on October 17, 2019. That’s when Mulvaney held arguably the worst press briefing ever given by a White House Chief of Staff.
From a media messaging perspective, God cursed Mulvaney with an overabundance of both arrogance and hubris. It would be these character traits—as they say, “a man’s character determines his fate”—that would lead to Mick’s remarks that falsely implicated the Boss in a “quid pro quo” impeachable offense with the Ukrainians. In this case, Mick’s smartass character almost determined the president’s fate.
My other big beef with Mulvaney was his toxic Virus Denial. Particularly early in the pandemic, Mulvaney, along with others like Marc Short and Steve Mnuchin, contributed to a climate of complacency in the Oval Office as the virus from China began to logarithmically tighten its python grip in the Winter of 2020.
Here, much has been made about my throwdown with Tony Fauci in the White House Situation Room on January 28, 2020, over Fauci’s opposition to a Trump China travel ban that would wind up saving hundreds of thousands of American lives. Yet, on that fateful day in the Sit Room, I would also have to also go mano a mano with an equally recalcitrant Mulvaney.
In fact, the only way I was able to turn Fauci and Mulvaney on the travel ban issue on behalf of the president was to pen a memo that predicted, quite presciently as it would turn out, the loss of over a half a million American lives and trillions of dollars in costs if we lagged in our pandemic response.
Of course, no good deed goes unpunished. For that Paul Revere, virus is coming memo, Mulvaney would banish me from the Coronavirus Task Force forever – and the rest is, as they say, history. Were that Mick had never been part of that – or any other – White House history.
Peter Navarro served as the Assistant to the President for Trade and Manufacturing Policy in the Trump White House. This article is based on his memoir Taking Back Trump’s America: Why We Lost the White House and How We’ll Win It Back.