Trump’s ‘Think Tank’ Prepares to Betray Him 

Don’t go, Boss! That’s my strong advice to President Trump as he prepares to deliver a speech in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday at his alleged “think tank,” the America First Policy Institute (AFPI). 

Yes, it is important for President Trump to have a well-credentialed stable of policy experts capable of both building a 2024 platform and finding solid MAGA talent to populate a new Trump Administration. But the AFPI Trojan Horse—whose leadership is now bragging about how it will staff Trump’s “shadow cabinet”—is decidedly not that. 

Most comically, the AFPI roster features the author of a poison pen White House memoir who sued the president; a Communist China-trained accountant who criticized the president for “ineffective drug price policies”; a former Cabinet secretary who almost got Trump impeached; a former top advisor to Dick “Endless War” Cheney; and John “Book Deal” Bolton’s former chief of staff. What could go wrong there?

Most perniciously, the AFPI economics team is peppered with free trade ideologues on record opposing Trump’s tariffs—the most important and transformational component of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement. The most famous offender here is Trump’s former National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, who is now vice chairman of the AFPI board. 

As I document in Taking Back Trump’s America, I had to fight Brother Larry on an almost daily basis, not just on trade policy but also in my efforts to advance Trump’s two most simple rules: buy American, hire American. And Kudlow worked hand-in-hand with several members of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), who now constitute the free trade core of AFPI’s economic experts.  

Most egregiously, Casey Mulligan has boasted how Trump’s CEA chairman “would never waver from a free trade position,” and at the White House, Trump’s CEA, by culture and ideology, did everything it could to delay, dilute, and damage Trump’s trade policies. 

Brooke L. Rollins, president and CEO of the America First Policy Institute. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Incredibly, AFPI also hosts a gaggle of former Trump officials who have publicly criticized him for his “Stop the Steal” efforts and/or falsely implicated him in the January 6 violence. Besides the aforementioned Kudlow along with Kellyanne Conway, this gaggle includes former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf. 

Wolf openly defied President Trump’s order to fire the DHS official in charge of election security who laughably claimed the 2020 election was “the most secure in history.” And Trump pulled Wolf’s nomination for secretary after Wolf lit the Boss up over January 6. 

Arguably, the most dangerous AFPI fifth-columnist is former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. After the Boss left office, Jindal would insist “Trump was undone by his own predatory nature” and attacked the Boss for his “conspiracy theories and extra-constitutional notions.” Today, Jindal is aggressively pushing a “Trumpism without Trump” agenda.

That may well be AFPI’s broader agenda: Hijack the political attractiveness of Trumpism but replace Trump with an AFPI-anointed RINO. Here, it is worth remembering the Michael Dukakis bon mot“a fish rots from the head up.” 

The fishy CEO of AFPI is Trump’s former Domestic Policy Council director, Brooke Rollins. She recently let slip: “[W]hether the next president’s name is Donald J. Trump or whether the next president is a different name, we will be there standing by ready to help and we’ve already begun preparations for that time.”

If that’s not a recipe for Jindal’s “Trumpism without Trump” coup, I don’t know what is; and Rollins ranks high on my list of bad personnel in the Trump White House who helped Trump lose the 2020 election. 

I thought when I served with her that Rollins was merely politically tone deaf. Today, after I see how she is staffing AFPI, there is a far darker possibility. 

Memo to the Boss: Instead of legitimizing these grifters, why not demand they stop using the Trump good name to raise money to engineer their “Trumpism without Trump” coup. Alternatively, if this really is your think tank, bring in a John McEntee or Liz Harrington to run the place with the full power to fire and hire. Now that would be a real Trump MAGA policy institute.

About Peter Navarro

Peter Navarro is the former Assistant to the President for Trade and Manufacturing Policy and author of Taking Back Trump’s America: Why We Lost the White House and How We’ll Win It Back.

Photo: Kellyanne Conway speaks during an event at the America First Policy Institute on January 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

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