Trump's Trade Adviser Refuses to Give Obama Credit for the Economy, Despite Graphic Showing Stronger GDP Growth Under Obama

Peter Navarro, the president's director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, said on CNN Tuesday that President Barack Obama deserves no credit for an improved economy—despite numbers that appeared to indicate the contrary.

Navarro, whom Donald Trump appointed in 2017 after he previously served as the director of the National Trade Council, made his argument while speaking to CNN anchor Poppy Harlow.

CNN showed a graphic with data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis indicating that U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) grew at a rate of more than 4 percent during Obama's presidency: 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, 5.5 percent in the second quarter of 2014 and 5 percent in the third quarter of that same year. Another graphic compared job growth in the country during Obama's last 35 months as president to Trump's first 35 months.

"Don't both presidents deserve credit for good economies?" Harlow asked Navarro.

"If you lived through the Obama years—which everybody watching this show did—they remember what it was like," Navarro said. "What President Obama did was double the debt from $10 trillion to $20 trillion.... What Obama also did was swell the balance sheet of the Fed, trying to use Keynesian tools to pump up an economy which basically was suffering."

He went on, "What President Trump realized is that we had a structural problem, primarily with offshoring our jobs and overregulation, and high taxes relative to around the world. He fixed those structural problems that set up the economic boom that we're having right now. And back in the Obama-Biden years, it was horrible. We had this new normal of growth under 2 percent, wages were not rising."

Navarro continued to talk about what he termed the "new normal" of GDP growth under 2 percent, but Harlow interrupted him and asked that the chart depicting GDP growth under Obama be brought back up onto the screen.

"These are numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis," she said. "Over 4 percent economic growth, four quarters under President Obama. We have not seen growth above 4 percent on a quarterly basis under President Trump. It's a good economy now—all I'm asking you is, Wasn't it a good economy then as well?"

Navarro, however, maintained that the opposite was true.

"It was a horrible economy during the Obama years," he replied. "Barack Obama himself said you need a magic wand to bring half a million manufacturing jobs back. And guess what? President Trump was the magic wand, because that's what he did."

Trump Holds A Cabinet Meeting
White House Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro listens to President Donald Trump talk to reporters during a Cabinet meeting on February 12, 2019. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The president and his Cabinet have often lauded the economy's expansion under his administration, but evidence suggests that they may be exaggerating. Besides CNN's data, Newsweek reported in January that GDP growth under Trump was actually around 2.1 percent in the final quarter of 2019, even though Trump predicted in 2017 that growth would expand to 6 percent.

Navarro did not provide a source for his other statements in the clip. An analysis of the national debt under Obama by The Balance indicated that Obama did increase the national debt from $10.626 trillion to about $20 trillion. However, this is true if one considers only the amount of debt added during Obama's time in office, disregarding how his policies affected the growth of that debt and the budget deficits incurred while he was in office. If those are taken into account, the amount Obama added to the national debt could be as low as $2.8 trillion, according to The Balance.

Vox journalist Aaron Rupar shared a video clip of the exchange between Navarro and Harlow on his Twitter account Tuesday morning.

Here's White House trade adviser Peter Navarro insisting that the economy was bad during the Obama years, even as CNN host Poppy Harlow displays numbers showing that growth was stronger then than it has been under Trump pic.twitter.com/6EhYABIUz3

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 18, 2020