President Donald Trump's willingness to intervene in the case against Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou appears to be part of a larger White House effort to close a trade deal with China and boost the stock market.
Reports circulated this week, primarily off an interview the president gave to Reuters, that Trump was willing to step into the Meng case if it would resolve an ongoing dispute with China over tariffs or contribute to national security.
The statement came days after The Wall Street Journal quoted sources close to Trump as saying he is watching the stock market closely and has become increasingly concerned that the trade battle he has initiated with China is taking its toll on Wall Street.
"If I think it's good for the country, if I think it's good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what's good for national security — I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary," Trump told the wire service Tuesday.
Markets have reacted negatively multiple times to developments in the tariff talks. Last week, for instance, stocks tanked when Trump called himself "Tariff Man" in a tweet.
Returning from the G-20 dinner in Buenos Aires in early December, the administration boasted that a 90-day cease-fire with China on tariffs represented major progress. But when the market didn't react as Trump had hoped, the comments about the Meng case followed, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The market has continued to wobble over the past few days. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 157 points Wednesday but closed well off its highs of the session, and major averages were looking for direction Thursday morning amid another round of U.S.-China headlines.
Trump faced criticism for saying he was considering getting involved in the Meng case. Meng was arrested Dec. 1 in Vancouver on charges that she misled international banks about business dealings with Iran, putting them at risk of running afoul of U.S. sanctions. China has protested the arrest, and there is concern that the situation might complicate trade talks.
White House economist Peter Navarro encouraged investors to turn their focus from the U.S.-China situation and to focus instead on the Federal Reserve, whose interest rate hikes have been a favorite target of Trump's ire. Navarro, assistant to the president as director of trade and industrial policy, said the economy remains strong.
"The only thing that can mess that up in my judgment is not China but interest rate policy," Navarro told Fox Business Network. "If we get that right, we're gonna be fine. Investors shouldn't get hung up on the China trade."