Inside the bitter Oval Office tariff fight

This is an important point: Porter and Cohn were determined to prevent Trump from using an arcane section of trade law — Section 232 — to invoke a national security crisis to impose steel and aluminum tariffs.

They thought they’d got Trump to agree to a sequence: first impose tariffs on solar panels and washing machines (already done); then impose tariffs on hundreds of Chinese products to punish China for stealing American intellectual property (this action was imminent); then only impose the steel and aluminum tariffs after that (though in their minds hopefully Trump would be satisfied after whacking China so hard and wouldn’t feel the need to go further.) Lastly, they were considering an investigation into unfair foreign treatment of American car companies.

In the interim, the Porter disaster happened, and Trump became more and more agitated with the direction of the White House.