President Donald Trump signaled Tuesday morning that Larry Kudlow is his leading candidate to take the helm of the White House National Economic Council, further boosting the chances of a longtime conservative commentator and self-described supply-side economist who championed the Republican tax law passed this fall.
Gary Cohn, currently director of the National Economic Council, announced his upcoming resignation earlier this month amid disagreements with the president over Trump’s planned tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
“I’m looking at Larry Kudlow very strongly. I’ve known him a long time — we don’t agree on everything, but in this case I think that’s good,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “He’s a very talented man, a good man, and I think he has a good chance [at the job].”
Trump also suggested the search is not over, saying he will still be “speaking to many others” about the opening. White House officials have also pushed Trump to consider Christopher Lidell, a former chief financial officer of General Motors, Microsoft and International Paper who has served in the White House since last year. Cohn has favored Shahira Knight, one of his deputies, to take over the job, according to multiple reports.
Kudlow, 70, spent several years working in former President Ronald Reagan’s White House budget office. He also worked for the Wall Street firm Bear Stearns before hosting CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report,” a conservative-leaning show about business and politics. Kudlow is still a regular presence on cable news and hosts a podcast, “The Larry Kudlow Show,” that has been generally complimentary of Trump on a wide range of issues beyond economics, including on immigration, abortion and the “scam” Russia investigation.
But Kudlow has at times publicly criticized Trump or his policies. Like Cohn, Kudlow has been critical of the president’s tariff policy. He joined two other conservative economists to write a CNBC piece claiming the plan amounted to “tax hikes.”
“Trump should also examine the historical record on tariffs, because they have seldom worked as intended and almost always deliver an unhappy ending,” they wrote.
Trump sought to downplay the disagreement on Tuesday, saying Kudlow was beginning to agree with him that the tariffs can serve as a bargaining chip against other countries.
“[Kudlow] now has come around to believing in tariffs also as a negotiating point,” Trump told reporters. “I’m also negotiating trade deals, and without tariffs we wouldn’t do nearly as well.”
Kudlow served as an economic adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, helping to craft the then-candidate’s tax plan.
He criticized Trump after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which the president boasted of acts of sexual assault and said he was reconsidering his support, but Kudlow eventually reaffirmed his support for Trump.
“Larry has been a friend of mine for a long time. He backed me very early in the campaign — I think the earliest; I think he was one of my original backers,” Trump said Tuesday.