According to Axios, President Donald Trump's go-to deal maker on trade has fallen from atop his pedestal. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Trump go way back, but apparently the president has become disenchanted with Ross's abilities. And to complicate matters, Axios says the 81-year-old secretary has trouble staying awake during meetings.
Following Trump's rejection of a steel deal Ross made with China, the situation only worsened for Ross.
Trump told Ross he didn’t trust him to negotiate anymore. Ross had tried in the early months of the administration, before Robert Lighthizer was confirmed as the U.S. Trade Representative, to take the lead on several crucial trade conversations. Once Lighthizer arrived there was a tussle for control over several issues. But after Ross botched — in Trump's eyes — his dealings with China, he decided Lighthizer would be the lead negotiator on all trade issues.
The White House disputed claims that Ross is on the outs with Trump, with Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah telling Axios,
"Secretary Ross is leading the administration’s approach on steel, aluminum, intellectual property and trade. Far from souring on his performance, since taking office, the President has expanded his responsibilities.”
Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer expressed similar sentiments:
“Secretary Ross and I work together every day on these trade items. We all value his sharp business acumen, his insight into trade policy issues, and his hard work to advance the President’s agenda.”
But Ross's propensity toward falling asleep during meetings has not gone unnoticed. A former senior administration official told Axios:
“Wilbur is good until about 11a.m."
A source I had contacted about something more important responded that no only has Wilbur Ross fallen aslep at every meeting he's been in with source, but that he drools - and uses his tie to clean it up.