Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has lost President Trump’s trust, according a new Axios report featuring some pretty brutal blind-quotes. Trump originally treated the former banker like a trophy in his cabinet, boasting of Ross’s stature on Wall Street to others. But then Ross didn’t perform up to Trump’s expectations in trade negotiations with China, and so the president dressed down Ross in Oval Office meetings and told the longtime investor that his “understanding of trade is terrible.” As a result, trade representative Robert Lighthizer is now the Trump administration’s lead negotiator on such matters.
“Wilbur has lost his step,” the 71-year-old Trump reportedly said to someone at some point last year. “Actually, he’s probably lost a lot of steps.”
Ross reportedly has trouble staying awake during meetings, too, with a former administration official telling Axios that the 80-year-old is only “good until about 11 a.m.” That hasn’t gone over well, since showing signs of age would never be acceptable in this administration.
The Commerce secretary also annoyed Trump by hyperbolically boasting about a deal he’d made to open the Chinese market to American beef, since bragging about deals would never be acceptable in this administration, either.
Deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah, Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn, and Lighthizer all released statements disputing the criticism of Ross and maintaining that he was still a valuable member of the cabinet.
“Wilbur’s been sucking up for months, trying to get back in the president’s good graces,” a Trump-orbit source added, but that hasn’t repaired the damage.
Ross also lost the trust of Forbes last year after they decided he had been exaggerating his wealth. They removed him from their list of billionaires after the federal financial-disclosure forms Ross gave to the government last year indicated he had less than $700 million in assets. Ross’s de-listing embarrassment didn’t go unnoticed in a White House that fetishizes business-world success.
In November, it also emerged that Ross had failed to disclose ties to businesses connected to Russian president Vladimir Putin during his Senate confirmation hearings, but the report doesn’t make any mention of anyone in the White House caring about that.