Top Trump economist says departure is not related to Mexico tariff threat

Top Trump economist says departure is not related to Mexico tariff threat
© Greg Nash

One of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage MORE's top economic advisers on Monday said that his decision to leave the administration was his own and denied it had to do with the president's reliance on tariffs in trade negotiations.

Trump announced late Sunday that Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) Chairman Kevin Hassett would be leaving the administration “shortly.”

Asked in an appearance on CNBC's “Squawk Box” whether his exit was related to Trump's recent threat to impose tariffs on Mexico as a means to address immigration, Hassett said that was not the case.

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“Oh, no,” he said. “This is something that’s been in the works for a little while.”

Hassett favors free trade policies, but Trump has used tariffs or the threat of tariffs against China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico to secure better trade deals. Trump last week threatened to issue tariffs on Mexican goods if the country does not curb the flow of migrants and drugs into the United States.

Asked on CNBC whether he's a fan of using tariffs on Mexico to solve a noneconomic problem, Hassett offered a tepid defense.

"I don’t give advice for things like border security, but I can say that, if you look, the Mexicans are at the table," he said.

A Mexican delegation is scheduled to visit the White House on Wednesday for negotiations. The president will not be present, as he is on a state visit to the United Kingdom.

Trump praised Hassett in sharing news of his impending exit and said he will name a replacement after he returns from Europe. Hassett helped craft the 2017 Republican tax law and has championed the results of the administration's economic agenda.

Hassett, a longtime conservative economist, has been CEA head since September 2017. The agency provides data and research to advise the president on economic policy.

"If you look at the history of the CEA, it’s very normal for the CEA chair to move on after about two years," he said. "And I think it’s really quite healthy for the organization because the CEA is supposed to be this objective economic body rather than a political animal."

"I think it's really partly respect for the institution and the sort of normal two years role," he added. "And there’s also just wanting to go back and spend time with my family."