Working for Donald Trump means being thrown under the bus by Donald Trump, as Bill Barr discovered this weekend, if he were not already aware of it. Still, the contradictions have flown fast and furious enough around Peter Navarro that one has to wonder whether Larry Kudlow was allowed to escort him back to his time-out closet for a little break from the microphones and cameras.
It began Sunday when Navarro was among those trotted out at what one must assume were someone’s orders to say that the president was being “tongue-in-cheek” when he said at his sparsely-attended rambling rally, “I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’” This morning, Trump had a different message (albeit one that hasn’t made it to Anthony Fauci yet).
“I don’t kid. Let me just tell you. Let me make it clear,” Trump told reporters, when pressed on whether his comments at a campaign event Saturday in Tulsa, Okla., were intended as a joke.
In fairness, COVID-19 testing isn’t really in Navarro’s wheelhouse. Trade deals with China are another matter. And, a day after his “tongue-in-cheek” assurance, Navarro was equally adamant about that, telling Fox News that the his president’s beloved Phase 1 agreement with China was no more.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was asked about the trade deal, with anchor Martha MacCallum noting that the president wanted to maintain the agreement and ensure that China made good on its commitments. “But given everything that’s happened and all the things you just listed, is that over?” she asked.
“It’s over. Yes,” Mr. Navarro, a vocal critic of China, responded.
“It was at a time when they had already sent hundreds of thousands of people to this country to spread that virus, and it was just minutes after wheels up when that plane took off that we began to hear about this pandemic,” Navarro said.
Trump didn’t wait nearly as long this time to shoot down that suggestion, forcing Navarro to explain that his words bear no more resemblance to reality than the president’s, and oh yea he didn’t say what you heard him say on national television anyway.
As stock futures dropped, Mr. Navarro quickly sought to clarify his comments, telling The Wall Street Journal they had been “taken wildly out of context.”
“They had nothing at all to do with the phase-one trade deal, which continues in place,” he said. “I was simply speaking to the lack of trust we now have of the Chinese Communist Party after they lied about the origins of the China virus and foisted a pandemic upon the world.”
White House adviser Navarro walks back on comments China trade deal ‘over’ [Reuters]
China Trade Deal ‘Fully Intact,’ Trump Says, as Top Adviser Stirs Confusion [WSJ]
‘I don’t kid’: Trump says he wasn’t joking about slowing coronavirus testing [Politico]