The dysfunction was on vivid display on Thursday in the president's introduction of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The previous day, Mr. Trump's chief economic adviser, Gary D. Cohn, warned the chief of staff, John F. Kelly, that he might resign if the president went ahead with the plan, according to people briefed on the discussion. Mr. Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs president, had lobbied fiercely against the measures.


Mr. Trump's off-the-cuff opening of a trade war rattled the stock market, enraged Republicans and left Mr. Cohn's future in doubt. Mr. Cohn, who almost left last year after Mr. Trump's response to a white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Va., indicated he was waiting to see whether Mr. Trump goes through with the tariffs, people familiar with his thinking said.


Mr. Trump's instinct during these moments is to return to the populist themes that carried him to the White House, which is why his trade announcement is hardly surprising. Mr. Trump has few fixed views on any issue, but he has been consistent on his antipathy for free trade since the 1980s, when he took out newspaper ads warning about American deficits with Japan -- a concern that has shifted to China in recent years.

Interesting how Trump is unapologetically for free capital flows -- the mirror-image of trade. Could this have anything to do with his increasing reliance from the early 2000s on foreign financing to prop up his own flailing businesses?

If Trump, the financial sector at large, and the U.S. government would cease being whores for dollar-recycled finance, there would simply be less usefulness of those dollars abroad. This would cause the dollar to fall, and we'd get all the trade stimulus we need...

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