WASHINGTON — Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, suffered a heart attack Monday evening and was at Walter Reed Medical Center, Trump said in a tweet.
Kudlow, 70, who has referred to himself as a “happy warrior” in counseling Trump on trade and economic policy, joined Trump’s team in March as the director of the National Economic Council.
“Our Great Larry Kudlow, who has been working so hard on trade and the economy, has just suffered a heart attack. He is now in Walter Reed Medical Center,” Trump tweeted, just before a meeting in Singapore with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
The White House issued a statement late Monday evening saying that Kudlow had a “very mild heart attack.”
“Larry is currently in good condition at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and his doctors expect he will make a full and speedy recovery,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in the statement.
A person familiar with the situation said that Kudlow had a stent inserted Monday.
Kudlow, a former CNBC commentator and Wall Street economist who has long championed free trade, has increasingly defended Trump’s approach to trade policy, including his threat of tariffs. He did so most recently on Sunday cable news shows, where he defended Trump’s war of words with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada after this weekend’s fractious meeting of the Group of 7 industrialized nations.
Kudlow, speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” appeared to slur some words when discussing Trump’s trade agenda after the G-7 meeting. Kudlow criticized Trudeau, saying the prime minister “really kind of stabbed us in the back” with comments critical of the United States in a news conference after the meeting.
Kudlow had been home sick for part of the day Monday. He did not respond to colleagues’ calls and emails Sunday — a rarity — and on Monday morning, a National Economic Council meeting was unexpectedly canceled.
Colleagues said they had grown worried about Kudlow in recent days, particularly after a White House briefing last week, before the G-7 meeting, in which Kudlow appeared visibly tired and uncharacteristically frail.
On Monday night, friends and colleagues expressed concern for his health. Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, praised Kudlow in a brief interview. “Larry Kudlow is the salt of the earth, and a true patriot,” Hassett said. “And our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family tonight.”
Stephen Moore, a Heritage Foundation economist and longtime friend of Kudlow’s, said in an email Monday night that “he’s ok and will be back on the job,” in response to a question about Kudlow’s condition.
Kudlow is a smoker, and was sometimes seen outside the West Wing with a cigarette. He has told people the stress of the director’s job has surprised him, in part because of the constant level of toxic infighting among White House advisers, which he was not expecting.
Kudlow dove into the job with gusto, taking on a wide portfolio that included the president’s roller-coaster trade agenda — including on-again-off-again tariff threats against China, Mexico, Canada, the European Union and others — and denuclearization negotiations with North Korea. But in recent days, he has complained of exhaustion to friends and reporters, while stressing how much he loved the job.
A disciple of the supply-side economic theories of economist Arthur Laffer, and a Catholic, Kudlow struggled with drug and alcohol addiction in the early 1990s while chief economist at the Wall Street firm Bear Stearns. He found sobriety, and then he found a comfortable niche as a television commentator, radio host and evangelist for the economic power of low taxes, light regulation and a strong dollar.
He was an early fan of Trump’s presidential campaign, and he helped shape its tax plan, along with Moore. After Trump’s election, Kudlow was a loud and frequent champion of the tax cuts that Trump signed into law in December.
“He’s an optimist, he’s a markets guy, he always says profits are the mother’s milk,” James Pethokoukis, a columnist for the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said when Kudlow was picked for the National Economic Council job. When markets are firing and growth is strong, he said, “that is energizing to him.”
Kudlow replaced Gary D. Cohn, who resigned over objections to Trump’s tariffs. But the choice of Kudlow was widely seen as a positive sign for the free-trade wing of the Republican Party and as an indication that Trump wanted to refocus his message on the strength of the economy and the $1.5 trillion tax cut plan before the midterm elections. Since taking over as director, Kudlow has given frequent television appearances praising the strength of the economy and crediting Trump’s policies for it. Unlike many other Republicans, Kudlow has also defended Trump’s aggressive trade stance while insisting the president really does want free trade.
“President Trump spent two days — and this is something dear to my heart — talking to these ministers, these heads of state about free trade,” Kudlow said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” referring to the G-7 summit meeting, “ending tariffs, ending tariff barriers, ending subsidies, stopping trade wars, moving toward fairness and unfair trading practices.”
“We are the fastest growing economy in the G-7, and he has got a vision here,” he said. “He is probably going to be the best trade reformer in several decades the world has seen.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.