WASHINGTON — President Trump has chosen Larry Kudlow, a CNBC television commentator who has served as an informal economic adviser to him, to be the next director of the National Economic Council.
Mr. Kudlow will assume the role of Mr. Trump’s top economic adviser, replacing Gary D. Cohn, who said he would resign after losing a battle over the president’s longstanding desire to impose large tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that Mr. Kudlow had been offered the job and that the administration would “work to have an orderly transition.”
The decision to pick Mr. Kudlow, a longtime cheerleader of the president, is the latest move by Mr. Trump to surround himself with loyalists in high administrative posts.
On Monday, Mr. Trump ousted Rex W. Tillerson as secretary of state and said he would nominate the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, to take his place. As with the Pompeo announcement, which took Mr. Tillerson and some others in the administration by surprise, Mr. Kudlow’s selection startled some in the West Wing, who were unaware it was happening.
In an interview on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Kudlow said Mr. Trump had called him Tuesday night and offered the job, which he had immediately agreed to take.
“I knew I was the guy because he offered it last night and I accepted,” Mr. Kudlow said.
The White House had not expected to announce his hiring until Thursday or Friday, Mr. Kudlow said, but by Wednesday morning, news of his likely naming was widespread, and then “the deluge came.”
Mr. Kudlow, who has publicly criticized the president’s recently announced tariff plans, said Mr. Trump had a more nuanced view on trade than many people thought.
“He regards himself as a free trader,” Mr. Kudlow said. “He does not like to create obstacles, like tariffs. But he also has to protect the U.S. And he feels that many countries” have engaged in unfair trade practices. Mr. Kudlow cited China as a prominent example, expressing a view that is widely held within the administration. The White House has taken a series of steps to curb China and is expected to announce tariffs on certain Chinese products in the coming weeks.
Mr. Kudlow has long espoused a traditional conservative embrace of free trade, but it remains to be seen how vocally he will push back on West Wing advisers who are trade skeptics and have urged Mr. Trump to adopt protectionist measures to protect American industry.
Stock markets, which have been rattled by the White House tariffs, did not react positively to news of Mr. Kudlow’s appointment on Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 200 points for most of the afternoon, once news media outlets began reporting Mr. Kudlow was the pick.
Mr. Kudlow is a radio and television commentator and an economics consultant. He was a zealous convert to the supply-side economic policies that swept the Republican Party in the late 1970s. He is a protégé of the supply-side economist Arthur Laffer, with whom Mr. Kudlow worked on Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign. Mr. Kudlow went on to serve in Mr. Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget.
Like many past National Economic Councildirectors, he is not an academically trained economist — he studied for a master’s degree at Princeton University but did not earn one — but he served as chief economist for Bear Stearns and made a name advising prominent conservative politicians. In the early 1990s, Mr. Kudlow took a leave from the firm to enter drug and alcohol rehab; his colleagues said he abused cocaine.
Mr. Kudlow has spoken frequently about his addiction and ensuing sobriety in the ensuing years.
He said Thursday that staying clean sober for nearly 23 years “is the center of my life” and “my No. 1 job.”
Asked whether he thought the substance abuse could prove problematic for him as a White House staff nominee, he said, “We’ll see how that plays out.”
Mr. Kudlow was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Trump’s run for the presidency, advising the neophyte candidate on economic issues and pushing him to go big on cutting taxes. The men agreed on their desire for growth-goosing tax cuts but disagreed on trade, on which Mr. Trump ran as a populist and Mr. Kudlow preached free-market principles.
Mr. Kudlow criticized the president after the emergence of the “Access Hollywood” tape in October 2016. He later re-endorsed him, but Mr. Trump, who nurses grudges, was angry for some time, according to people close to him.