By Andrew Restuccia and Bob Davis
WASHINGTON -- President Trump's top economic adviser criticized
his boss's handling of the riot at the U.S. Capitol and said he was
disappointed in the way Mr. Trump treated Vice President Mike
Pence, while defending the administration's policy legacy.
"I was hoping that he would come out quickly and make statements
calling everybody back and stopping the violence," White House
National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said during an
80-minute interview with The Wall Street Journal. He praised the
video the president made earlier this week condemning violence,
adding that he wished he had released it earlier.
Mr. Trump, in a speech to thousands of protesters gathered near
the Washington Monument on Jan. 6, falsely asserted he had won the
election and urged his supporters to march to the Capitol, where
lawmakers were certifying President-elect Joe Biden's electoral
victory. As the protesters began breaching security lines, Mr.
Trump criticized Mr. Pence on Twitter for not blocking the
certification. After hundreds had broken into the Capitol, Mr.
Trump called on the rioters to remain peaceful and avoid
But later that day, the president tweeted, "These are the things
and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is
so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great
patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so
Mr. Kudlow joined the ranks of administration officials who have
publicly criticized the president's actions in relation to the
riot. Three cabinet secretaries and several senior officials across
the administration have stepped down in the aftermath of the
The NEC director weighed the possibility of resigning in the
aftermath of the riot, but ultimately decided against it. After
speaking to other senior White House officials, Mr. Kudlow said,
"we decided we needed to do the work of the country in the last 10
days or so."
Still, he took issue with the president's rhetoric. He said the
president shouldn't have continued to argue that he had won the
election, arguing it was a mistake not to shift focus to policy
"Once the electoral college declared Mr. Biden to be
president-elect, we would have been better advised to acknowledge
that and to pivot toward talking about our positive achievements
and the policies that generated those policy achievements," Mr.
But Mr. Kudlow nonetheless made the case that Mr. Trump's speech
before the riot didn't incite the violence and didn't amount to an
Asked if he was frustrated by Mr. Trump's public criticism of
Mr. Pence, Mr. Kudlow said, "I was very disappointed in the
The president's assertion that Mr. Pence could prevent Mr. Biden
from taking office had little legal basis.
"The vice president's legal experts were very clear in providing
Mike with the knowledge that he had a very, very limited role in
the congressional certification of the electors, and virtually,
except for a few extremists, the entire legal profession agreed
with Pence," Mr. Kudlow said.
Mr. Kudlow also touted Mr. Trump's policy legacy, citing tax
cuts, deregulation and trade deals as major victories.
"I think President Trump will go down in history as the
president who changed our policies and woke up to the fact that
China was becoming more of a competitor and moving into the area of
an enemy," he said.
He urged the incoming Biden administration to continue the
hard-line approach, including negotiating a free-trade deal with
Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province. That didn't
make sense when the U.S. was pressing Beijing to sign a trade deal,
which he said "was a higher priority."
With the Phase One agreement with China out of the way, a Taiwan
deal could signal U.S. support for the island against mounting
pressure from Beijing. "It's essential the U.S. protect Taiwan and
make it clear to China we intend to protect Taiwan," he said. "I
think the world community will rally around us."
Mr. Kudlow also urged Mr. Biden to continue tariffs on $370
billion of Chinese imports -- three-quarters of everything China
sells to the U.S. -- "at least until the U.S. government is
satisfied with China's implementation" of the trade pact, which
requires China to beef up protection of intellectual property and
buy an additional $200 billion in U.S. goods over two years. China
is well behind in its purchases.
Biden advisers have said that the incoming president doesn't
plan to lift tariffs quickly and wants to consult with allies
before making a decision on the levies.
Mr. Kudlow described his time in the White House as the "job of
a lifetime," adding that he had a positive relationship with the
president and that Mr. Trump often listened to his advice. Mr.
Kudlow met with Mr. Trump for about 20 minutes this week.
On at least two occasions, Mr. Kudlow said he urged the
president to take steps to underscore the seriousness of the
pandemic, including by stressing the importance of wearing masks.
Mr. Trump largely rebuffed that advice, which Mr. Kudlow said might
have contributed to the president's defeat.
"I don't think it helped the election and I don't think it
helped solve Covid," Mr. Kudlow said. "I was not the only one who
gave him that advice, by the way, on the economic team."
Mr. Kudlow, however, praised the administration's efforts to
negotiate coronavirus-relief legislation and stood by his
opposition to widespread economic shutdowns in light of the
As Mr. Biden's inauguration approaches, Mr. Kudlow said he has
had informal conversations with some of the incoming president's
economic advisers, many of whom he has known for years. But he
hasn't offered them any advice. He hasn't spoken to his successor,
Mr. Kudlow said he plans to return to work in television and
radio: "I've got a lot of energy for a 73-year-old."
--Alex Leary contributed to this article.
Write to Andrew Restuccia at Andrew.Restuccia@wsj.com and Bob
Davis at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 15, 2021 17:53 ET (22:53 GMT)
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