Days Before Trump Imposed Controversial Steel Tariff, Former Trump Adviser Sold Millions In Steel Stocks

Carl Icahn at Conference
Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

On Thursday, President Trump made a decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from other countries. The tariffs, which would effectively levy a 25 percent tax on steel and a 10 percent tax on aluminum, have been negatively received by many, including the European Union. While many were surprised at Trump’s decision to start a so-called “trade war,” a former Trump special adviser, billionaire Carl Icahn, luckily had the foresight to sell all his steel stocks days before the president announced the tariff this week, Newsweek reports.

The newly proposed Trump tariffs should come as no surprise to those who paid attention to then-candidate Trump on the campaign trail. Indeed, while campaigning, candidate Trump rallied against the flood of imported goods into the U.S. market, especially from countries that he deems untrustworthy, like China. The goal of the tariffs is to help out American steel manufacturers by making it harder for large companies to simply import Chinese steel and aluminum. When the White House was asked about Carl Icahn’s fortuitous sale, a spokesman denied that Trump had fed Icahn information, citing that the president has gone on record saying that he had long planned to impose these types of tariffs in his presidency.

Steel Manufacturers In USA
While steel is used for a variety of products, there are fewer than 200,000 Americans working in steel mills and smelters. Worldsteel / Getty Images

While it’s true that the president professed his desire to impose these types of tariffs early on, he gave no indication that he was going to follow through with it until his announcement on Thursday. The fact that Carl Icahn managed to sell all of his stocks mere days before Trump announced his plans to impose the steel tariffs was deemed troubling by some Democrats and critics of the president. The wealthy billionaire managed to sell his steel interests at $32 to $34 a share between Feb. 12 and Feb. 22 before the stocks dropped to a price of $26.93 on Friday. While Icahn made about $31 million in his sales, his gains represent a small amount of his personal fortune, given the fact that he ranks 27th in Forbes‘ list of 400 wealthiest Americans.

Carl Icahn himself has not commented about his decision to sell, but in an interview with CNBC on Thursday, Icahn stated that he hadn’t had much interaction with Trump in the past four or five months due to both men’s busy schedule. There is still no definitive proof that the president tipped his friend off to the timing of his announcement, but the coincidence is enough to have Trump critics investigating whether Icahn is receiving non-public information.