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Peter Navarro Trashes Trump’s Chiefs and ‘Cabinet of Clowns’

The Daily Beast 9/13/2022 Zachary Petrizzo
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty © Provided by The Daily Beast Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

Donald Trump’s top trade adviser—tariff-loving right-wing economist Peter Navarro—has harsh words for many of his former White House colleagues, writing in his upcoming MAGA loyalist memoir that three of Trump’s chiefs of staff were among the worst top White House staffers in history and calling Trump’s agency leaders a “Cabinet of Clowns.”

“You should normally expect a murderer’s row of highly polished media killers in the cabinet secretary pool,” Navarro writes, according to an excerpt exclusively obtained by The Daily Beast. “Regrettably, this was just not so in Trump Land.”

“Ever the media hound, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin got the most airtime,” Navarro continues. “It was never a good thing.”

Navarro says Mnuchin ”spoke like a robot”—“often with an uncomfortable nervous tic around the corners of his mouth”—and asserts that Trump’s Treasury Secretary was an “uncomfortable cross between cringeworthy and a Wall Street hack.”

Navarro, who was indicted for refusing to cooperate with the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, has never been shy when it comes to taking swipes, both within Trumpworld and at those aligned against the former president. Since leaving the White House, Navarro has found a MAGA perch alongside Steve Bannon, frequently appearing on Bannon’s War Room podcast to call out the dreaded “RINOs” and Trumpworld “grifters.”

Now Navarro is releasing a new book, Taking Back Trump’s America, chock-full of score-settling and name-calling.

In the chapter obtained by The Daily Beast, Navarro calls out the “always punctilious” former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, as well as FDA Commissioner Steve Hahn, Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield, and National Institutes of Health head Francis Collins.

Navarro said Hahn, Redfield, and Collins “would each throw POTUS under the bus even faster than Azar—as would other key officials like the insufferably pompous [former assistant secretary for Health] Brett Giroir and of course, the king of stepping on White House messaging, Saint Fauci,” referring to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci.

But Navarro reserves some of his most severe criticism for Trump’s “Motley Crue of Chiefs.”

“The first chief Reince Priebus was just the wrong, small, and inexperienced man for a very big job,” Navarro writes.

He then lays into Trump’s second chief of staff, John Kelly. “From a media perspective, this was like recruiting a trucker to drive a Formula One car,” Navarro says. “Or maybe like using a chainsaw for open heart surgery.”

Navarro goes on to say Kelly was “brutally and simply incapable of messaging anything to the press.”

He then takes aim at Mick Mulvaney, Kelly’s successor. Navarro spends time noting that Trump never officially gave Mulvaney the full title, always appending “acting” to his chief of staff position as a “little dig that the Boss liked to stick into Mick so he never got comfortable in the job.”

“The more Mick begged, the more permanent his ‘acting chief’ status would become,” Navarro continues.

Navarro then claims—without a shred of self-reflection—that the problem with Mulvaney from a media messaging standpoint was that ”God blessed this smug Mick with an overabundance of both arrogance and hubris.”

Navarro specifically points to Mulvaney’s October 2019 press conference when he tried to move the media past Trump’s alleged quid pro quo with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"Get over it,” Mulvaney said during the press conference. “There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

Trump never really did “get over it” himself. The president made Mulvaney issue a statement later that day saying there was “absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election.” And after the episode, Mulvaney’s days in the White House were numbered.

True to the loyalist version of events that Navarro presents, he never actually spells out what Mulvaney said during that Oct. 17, 2019, press conference. He simply includes a paragraph from “one newspaper” that never mentions Ukraine or Trump’s solicitation of an investigation into his chief political rival, Joe Biden.

Either way, Navarro writes, ”that single press conference was the beginning of the end for Mulvaney even as it underscored yet again the inability of the White House to dominate the news cycle.”

Responding to the claims made by Navarro’s book, Mulvaney went on the attack.

“Peter Navarro used an imaginary friend to justify many of his economic hypotheses,” Mulvaney told The Daily Beast, referring to a character that appeared in one of Navarro’s old books as his “imaginary” friend. “No one, including Donald Trump, takes him as a serious commentator on, well, anything.”

A Trump spokesperson didn’t return The Daily Beast’s request regarding that statement.

But Navarro fired back, telling The Daily Beast: “Read Taking Back Trump’s America for the truth about this ungrateful idiot and you decide.”

“Mulvaney never should’ve been allowed in the Trump White House much less been designated chief of staff,” he continued. “He was opposed to much of what Trump stands for. He is now cashing in on CBS for his Trump celebrity and sticking knives in Trump’s back. It’s all so shameful.”

Informed of Navarro’s comments, Mulvaney got the last word.

“The only people who take Peter seriously are those who read his book,” he told The Daily Beast. “And no one read his book.”

While it’s clear there’s no love lost between Navarro and Mulvaney, Navarro’s roughest—if not most generic—criticism is reserved for Trump’s final chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

Navarro says Meadows earned the “distinction” of being named “the worst chief of staff in history” by the leading scholar on that subject, Chris Whipple.

“To this,” Navarro says of that ranking, “I will again say my three favorite words I learned from the Washington Swamp: ‘I don’t disagree.’”

Still, Navarro says the title of worst chief of staff is “probably more of a dead heat between Meadows, Mulvaney, and Kelly.”

“Note to Reince,” Navarro continues, “I think you would have turned out to be the best of the bunch if the Boss had only given you a bit more time to prove yourself.”

Meadows declined to comment. A Mnuchin spokesperson and Kelly didn’t return The Daily Beast’s request, and Azar and Priebus couldn’t be reached for comment.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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