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Kudlow has 'very good chance' of replacing Cohn, Trump says

Larry Kudlow, the conservative economist and media personality, at the Four Seasons in New York, June 18, 2015. Though he reportedly remains undecided, Kudlow has taken aggressive steps toward mounting a challenge of Sen. Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut, a heavily-Democratic state where he would be a significant underdog. (Misha Friedman/The New York Times/Copyright 2018/New York Times)

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that economist and CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow has "a very good chance" at replacing Gary Cohn, the outgoing director of the White House National Economic Council.

"I'm looking at Larry Kudlow very strongly," Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to California. "He now has come around to believing in tariffs."

The president may name the 70-year-old Kudlow as his top economic adviser within a day or so, a person familiar with the matter said on Monday. Trump has spoken by phone with Kudlow about the economic adviser role a couple of times in recent days, including once over the weekend, according to two people familiar with the situation.

The people familiar with Trump's deliberations cautioned that he hasn't made a final decision and could change his mind. Two other people described Kudlow as being among those being considered as replacements for Cohn. All of the people asked not to be identified discussing the matter.

Kudlow is already an informal adviser who occasionally speaks to the president, one of the people said. In addition to his duties at CNBC, where he is a senior contributor, Kudlow is a radio host, syndicated columnist and entrepreneur. He was an economist for Bear Stearns & Co. Inc. and served in President Ronald Reagan's administration.

Other people whose names have been mentioned as part of the search include White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, Deputy Director for Economic Policy Shahira Knight, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Stephen Moore, chief economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Cohn announced his departure last week after Trump moved forward with steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports -- a plan Cohn had vociferously opposed.

The divide came to a head in an Oval Office meeting where Trump sought confirmation from his advisers that he had their support. According to two people with knowledge of the exchange, the president asked Cohn directly if he backed the decision and Cohn declined to pledge his support. Another person familiar with the meeting disputed that account. Nevertheless, hours later, Cohn was on the way out.

White House aides like Kudlow because he's viewed as team player who would support the president's vision, and would arrive on the job with substantial Wall Street credibility.

Still, Kudlow has also clashed with Trump in the past. Earlier this month, he wrote a column for CNBC describing the president's tariffs as "a regressive tax on low-income families."

"Trump should also examine the historical record on tariffs, because they have almost never worked as intended and almost always deliver an unhappy ending," Kudlow wrote in the March 3 column, which also included praise for other parts of the president's economic agenda. Kudlow has strongly backed the tax overhaul that Trump signed at the end of last year.

In 2016, when a tape surfaced before the election featuring Trump boasting about grabbing women's genitals, Kudlow said he was "furious" and threatened to vote for Mike Pence as a write-in candidate.

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