With Cohn gone, Peter Navarro is unleashed at White House

  • With Gary Cohn out of the picture, trade advisor Peter Navarro's brand of protectionist nationalism is on the rise in the White House.
  • Cohn and Navarro hold different philosophies on trade, tariffs and protectionism.
Peter Navarro, center, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Peter Navarro, center, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Peter Navarro suffered any number of humiliations in his first year in the White House, where the trade advisor was out of favor with President Donald Trump and his superiors for months.

But nothing was more degrading than an order handed down by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly: Navarro had to copy his boss, Gary Cohn, on every single email he sent at the White House.

"The chief wanted him under control," a senior administration official told CNBC on Tuesday, referring to Kelly.

But now the free-trading Cohn is stepping down as National Economic Council director, and Navarro's brand of protectionist nationalism is in the ascendency.

Presumably, there will be no one else at the White House looking over Navarro's email now.

"Peter was quietly effective for nine months," said an administration official. "He helped his reputation by keeping a low profile and being a model prisoner during his period of captivity. And when his opportunity came, he took it and he won."

Another administration official told CNBC that Cohn's resignation is "a huge victory for the nationalists."

"Peter Navarro won the trade battle and now Gary's given up," that administration official said. "It literally reestablishes the intellectual framework and the personnel who were originally envisioned after Trump won the election. We can let Trump be Trump."

Possible Cohn replacements

Navarro and Larry Kudlow, a prominent conservative and CNBC contributor, will likely be candidates for Cohn's job.

The second administration official played down the likelihood of Kudlow assuming the economic advisor role, however. Kudlow has been vocal in his opposition to the president's planned tariffs on steel and aluminum.

A senior administration official said Cohn's departure came after 4-5 weeks of conversations between Cohn and the president about Cohn's role, including discussions of higher level opportunities within the administration.

The official said Cohn has offered to help Trump in selecting a successor, but has not yet suggested a specific name.

The official said Cohn's departure had less to do with the tariff disagreement and was a mutual agreement in the wake of the extended conversation about his future.

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