Nine people to watch in the Trump tariff debate

Nine people to watch in the Trump tariff debate
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpLieu: There will be 'widespread civil unrest' if Trump fires Mueller Attorneys for Trump, Mueller hold face-to-face meeting to discuss potential interview topics: report Trump tariffs not helpful for nuclear talks, South Korea says MORE’s proposal to impose steep tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum has provoked a furious pushback from Republicans and even people in the White House.

While Trump insists the tariffs will go forward, Republicans in Congress are trying to convince him to scale back his plans.

Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council and a critic of the plan, announced his resignation from the White House on Tuesday. His decision was seen as a reaction to the proposal.

Here are nine people to watch as the debate continues to unfold.

Peter Navarro, White House trade adviser 

Navarro has long argued for tariffs, but was sidelined in the White House debate by chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE. He’s regained clout since the departure of staff secretary Rob Porter, who ran the White House’s trade meetings. 

The former professor scored a major victory with Trump’s announcement and is now being treated on Capitol Hill as a force to be reckoned with. 

“Navarro should know better,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchSenate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed Week ahead: Lawmakers scramble to avoid another shutdown Lighthizer set to testify before Senate Finance on trade next week MORE (R-Utah), a critic of Trump’s tariff announcement. 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerMORE

Lighthizer backs the president’s argument that the threat of the tariffs could accelerate completion of a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada.

“It is my view that it’s an incentive to get a deal,” Lighthizer said after completion of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City on Monday. 

Trump connected the tariffs to NAFTA in a series of tweets on Monday, suggesting he could use the tariffs as leverage to get a better deal.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossOvernight Regulation: Facebook faces new crisis over Cambridge Analytica data | Whistleblower gets record SEC payout | Self-driving Uber car kills pedestrian | Trump bans trading in Venezuelan cryptocurrency Manufacturing group launches ad campaign against tariffs Week ahead: Lawmakers scramble to avoid another shutdown MORE

Ross sent Trump a series of options last month for taking action on steel and aluminum.

He has argued that the tariffs would have a “limited impact” on consumers and businesses because they would only raise prices by fractions of a penny. 

“The notion that it would destroy a lot of jobs, raise prices, disrupt things, is wrong,” he said. 

Ross was among several White House staffers who reportedly debated the need for tariffs in front of Trump in the Oval Office. 

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO

Trumka, who fought against Trump on taxes and health care, has praised the president’s tariff plan, highlighting the topsy-turvy nature of the new trade debate.

“For years, we have called attention to the predatory practices of some steel exporting countries,” Trumka said. “Such practices hurt working people and cheat companies that produce in the U.S. We applaud the administration’s efforts today to fix this problem.” 

Trumka and five other top labor union leaders met with Trump last month at the White House.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanSpending deal talks down to toughest issues, lawmakers say Schiff: I thought more Republicans would speak out against Trump Dem leaders pull back from hard-line immigration demand MORE (R-Wis.)

Ryan is personally lobbying Trump to reconsider the tariffs.

The Speaker has shared his concerns with the president on multiple occasions, while his office blasted out an email this week highlighting a news article that linked a drop in the stock market to Trump’s announcement.

The public pushback from Ryan, the House’s top Republican, represents a rare break from the GOP president. But it’s unclear how much sway Ryan will have over Trump.

Ryan is pressing the Trump administration to take a more “surgical” and “targeted” approach to slapping the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and to zero in on abuses from China.

The Speaker made the same arguments to fellow Republicans during their closed-door GOP conference meeting, sources in the room said.

Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyRepublicans open to targeted China tariffs despite steel flap GOP pushes for 'phase two' of tax cuts Lighthizer, Ross set to talk trade on Capitol Hill next week MORE (R-Texas) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

Trump’s key soldiers on the tax cuts, Brady and Hatch, have led the charge against the tariffs in Congress.

Hatch has sent a letter to the White House urging Trump to rethink his approach, while Brady is planning to send a similar letter.

Both lawmakers believe their behind-the-scenes push could succeed in winning over Trump before he finalizes the proposal.

“Some of us have weighed in. ... I think he’s thinking it through,” Hatch told reporters. “I think he’s shooting one across the bow and letting people know that we’re not being treated fairly.”

GOP members want the president to exempt fairly traded products from the plan.

“We urge you to reconsider the idea of broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences to the U.S. economy and its workers,” Brady’s letter states. “We are eager to work with you in pursuing a workable, targeted approach that achieves our shared goal.”

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDemocratic senator: People don’t know what’s going on between Trump and Putin Power struggle threatens to sink bank legislation Pension committee must deliver on retirement promise MORE (D-Ohio)

Brown has been at the forefront of Democratic support for Trump’s trade policy decisions, calling repeatedly for action to provide relief to the U.S. steel industry. 

The Ohio Democrat welcomed Trump’s plans to crack down on unfair steel imports that he says have hurt the domestic industry. 

Brown has touted his close relationships with the administration’s top trade officials.

“This welcome action is long overdue for shuttered steel plants across Ohio and steelworkers who live in fear that their jobs will be the next victims of Chinese cheating,” he said. 

He has a few other Democrats in his corner, such as Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenFacebook faces new crisis over Cambridge Analytica data Cambridge Analytica CEO filmed talking about using bribes, sex workers in political work Cambridge Analytica 'strongly denies' mishandling Facebook users' information MORE (Ore.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyHouse GOP frets over Pennsylvania race Do the numbers add up for Democrat Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania? Poll: Five Senate Dems would lose to GOP challenger if elections held today MORE (Pa.).

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau  

Trudeau has been quick to talk Trump down from a trade ledge in the past, including last year when he urged the president to remain in the NAFTA pact. 

On Monday, Trudeau spoke to Trump and expressed his serious concerns about the threat of the proposed tariffs. 

Trudeau said the tariffs may aggravate already tough NAFTA negotiations.