Jun 9, 2018

How the globalists fought — and failed

Gary Cohn. Photo: Michael Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images

Trade has been the Trump administration's biggest internal policy fight. For more than a year, senior officials met weekly in the Roosevelt Room, and occasionally with Trump in the Situation Room and Oval Office, to hash out differences.

Gary Cohn, Trump's economic adviser until April and fellow "globalists" — a small group that included Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former Staff Secretary Rob Porter — were often forced into a defensive crouch, trying to beat back the hardliners' ideas in real time in front of the president.

Cohn fought hardest in these meetings, according to sources in the room, calling Navarro a liar and telling him he knew nothing about economics.

I spoke to Cohn this week about his role in challenging Navarro, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and ultimately the president over their dedication to tariffs as a tool in trade negotiations:

  • Sources say Cohn internally acquiesced to putting tariffs on washing machines and solar panels but fought tooth and nail, and ultimately resigned, over Trump's decision to impose massive tariffs on steel and aluminum.
  • Cohn said he's not opposed to tariffs in every situation, but views tariffs on inputs rather than finished goods as economically disastrous because they affect so many industries.

Cohn says flatly that trade deficits don't matter.

  • "China is producing goods, not services, that we want to buy and they're producing them cheaper than we can produce them ourselves. 
  • "The old smokestacks that we used to have in the United States in the 1950s ... have moved to China, because people didn't like working in those environments."

Cohn disagrees with the idea that America needs a domestic steel industry for its national defense:

  • He says it's unlikely America will go to war with allies like Canada from whom the U.S. imports steel. 
  • "We're not fighting a 1950s war anymore with tanks on the ground ... Look how effectively we're doing in North Korea with sanctions. Look at cyber. The computer is more powerful than any piece of steel."

Bottom line: Cohn worries that by putting tariffs on steel and aluminum, Trump will ultimately hurt American farmers and consumers, because China and other countries will retaliate by putting higher tariffs on U.S. agriculture.

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus updates: Majority of governors order residents to stay home

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

At least 28 state governors have ordered their residents to stay home to promote social distancing and limit community spread from the coronavirus pandemic as the U.S. copes with more than 144,000 positive cases — more than any other country in the world, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: COVID-19 killed over 2,500 people in the U.S. by Monday. That's far fewer than in Italy, where over 10,700 people have died — accounting for a third of the global death toll. The number of people who've recovered from the virus in the U.S. exceeded 4,800.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 6 mins ago - Health

Maryland becomes latest state to issue coronavirus stay-at-home order

Gov. Larry Hogan. Photo: Jim Spellman/Getty Images

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday he is ordering residents to stay at home effective 8 p.m. due to the coronavirus, except for those engaged in essential services, including health care and government functions.

The big picture: Maryland is the latest state to announce policies to enforce social distancing, which have affected almost 250 million Americans. More than 1.5 billion people worldwide had been asked to stay home as of last week.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 35 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12 p.m. ET: 741,030 — Total deaths: 35,305 — Total recoveries: 156,838.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 12 p.m. ET: 143,532 — Total deaths: 2,572 — Total recoveries: 4,865.
  3. Federal government latest: The White House will extend its social distancing guidelines until April 30 — Hospital ship the USNS Comfort arrives in Manhattan
  4. Public health updates: — White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said the 100,000 to 200,000 U.S. coronavirus death toll estimate is based on the presumption that citizens follow social-distancing guidelines "almost perfectly."
  5. Business latest: Macy's will furlough the majority of it's workers this week, as the chain's stores remain closed.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Living with the coronavirus
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.