Ex-San Diegan Peter Navarro ‘Source of All Chaos,’ Says Bob Woodward Book ‘Fear’

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Economist Peter Navarro, the one-time perennial San Diego political candidate, is a key figure in “Fear: Trump in the White House.” Image via YouTube.com

By Ken Stone

Peter Navarro is “the source of all the chaos” in the White House when it came to trade policy, a rival adviser says in “Fear,” Bob Woodward’s new book on the Donald Trump presidency.

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The former San Diegan — who ran for local or national office five times between 1992 and 2001, including mayor and City Council — is prominent in the book, appearing on 19 pages.

The 19th book by the famed Watergate reporter says Gary Cohn, who eventually would resign as President Trump’s top economic adviser, tried to oust Navarro over his push for steel and other tariffs.

“Cohn took every chance he could get to tell [White House Chief of Staff John] Kelly how Navarro was an absolute disaster,” Woodward writes on page 277 of the book officially out Tuesday.

Peter Navarro is mentioned on 19 pages of the book by the Washington Post associate editor.
“Get rid of him, Cohn argued, fire him,” Woodward writes.

Presidential staff secretary Rob Porter — who also left eventually (over spousal abuse allegations) — advised Kelly he couldn’t fire Navarro because “the president loves him.”

But Porter could “block him,” he’s depicted as telling Kelly, who once was based at Camp Pendleton.

On Sept. 26, 2017, Kelly called a “meeting of the combatants,” with Stephen Miller joining Navarro and Porter siding with Cohn.

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Navarro began by complaining that he had been promised during the campaign to be an assistant to the president, but ended up as a deputy assistant, heading the new White House National Trade Council.

Cohn pushed back, Woodward writes.

“Peter’s out there going rogue,” Cohn is quoted as saying. “He’s telling the president lies. He’s totally unchecked. He’s the source of all the chaos in this building.”

Kelly hears Navarro’s rebuttal — “Gary’s just a globalist. He’s not loyal to the president” — but soon ends the snipefest.

“All right. I can’t deal with this anymore,” Kelly says, telling Navarro he’ll be part of Cohn’s National Economic Council, “and you’re going to report to Gary.”

Then, according to Woodward, the former Marine general says: “That’s just how it’s going to be. And if you don’t like it, you can quit. Meeting over.”

Navarro said he wanted to appeal Kelly’s decision to President Trump, but Kelly said no and “get out of my office.”

Time passed, and Trump hadn’t seen Navarro in the Oval Office, so the president is quoted as saying: “Where the hell is my Peter? I haven’t talked to Peter Navarro in two months.”

Woodward writes: “But, as was often the case, [Trump] did not follow up.”

Navarro pops up several other times in the 420-page book, including in the 16-page center section of color photos of key characters.

Navarro, now 69, is captioned as a 67-year-old Harvard PhD in economics. “Both Trump and Navarro were passionate believers that trade deficits harmed the U.S. economy,” Woodward writes. “Navarro agreed with Trump on steel and aluminum tariffs though few others did.”

The former UC Irvine economics professor doesn’t make his first appearance in “Fear” until Chapter 17 on pages 134-135.

It again featured a clash between White House rivals, with Woodward saying that Navarro called Cohn “a Wall Street establishment idiot.”

Peter Navarro (right) at the White House with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and President Trump. Image from White House video
Navarro decried NAFTA at one meeting with Trump and Cohn, calling for tariffs on imported steel.

That prompted Cohn — a former president of Goldman Sachs — to tell both the president and Navarro: “If you just shut the f–k up and listen, you might learn something.”

Cohn apparently is a primary source for the book — though he said recently that “this book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House.” (Cohn hasn’t disputed any specifics.)

Among the details were Cohn’s judgments about Navarro, including: “The problem is that Peter comes in here and says all this stuff and doesn’t have any facts to back it up. I have the facts.”

In another episode, then Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is shown a pouting two-page note by Navarro, intended for Trump, about the economic factions in the West Wing.

“Mr. President, are you aware that under pressure from the Cohn faction, I was demoted on Day One from Assistant to Deputy, given zero staff on trade, went almost three weeks without an office and have had no direct access to the Oval Office?”

Navarro appealed to Trump with a golf analogy.

“I have been given only a five iron and a putter and ordered to shoot par on trade — an impossible task,” Woodward quotes from the “Eyes Only” memo, apparently supplied by Priebus or Porter.

Porter feared that Trump, if he read the memo, would make trade policy a “major fight” in the White House.

So Porter told Priebus he’d just “keep [the memo] on my desk, keep it in my files. Not going anywhere.”

But Navarro took things into his own hands in April 2017 after Trump demanded an executive order withdrawing the United States from NAFTA. Porter, the staff secretary in charge of paperwork, noted it first had to be a 180-day termination notice.

After being warned against any action by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Trump decided to hold off.

But Navarro “slipped into the Oval Office for an ad hoc, unscheduled meeting with the president,” Woodward writes.

Navarro tells Trump — again looking for action on NAFTA — that Porter’s process “is holding all this stuff up.” That leads to Trump demanding to see Porter immediately.

Porter then drafts a 180-day NAFTA pullout notice for Trump’s signature.

Fearing a crisis with Canada and Mexico, Porter went to Cohn.

“I can stop this,” Cohn is quoted as telling Porter. “I’ll just take the paper off his desk before I leave.”

Woodward says he did.

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