You won't see him on cable news, but President Trump's hardline trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer is wielding extraordinary — and growing — influence inside the White House.
- Lighthizer was the lead economic adviser for Trump's Asia trip, with Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin staying home to handle tax reform. He briefed the president constantly on Air Force One and was by his side at just about every meeting.
- Trump has huge respect for Lighthizer. He likes that he will take on his colleagues and doesn't back down, even in front of Trump. He's increasingly winning internal arguments over the administration's inevitable economic confrontation with China.
Why this matters: Lighthizer makes the pro-trade community nervous. He agrees with Trump that the mounting trade deficits with China are unacceptable. And he's staking out such hardline negotiating positions with South Korea (on the KORUS trade deal) and Canada and Mexico (on NAFTA) that top Republicans on the Hill and in Washington's business community fear he will torpedo both deals.