Center for American Progress Action

Meet the Millionaire Grifter Behind Trump’s Trade War.

Meet the Millionaire Grifter Behind Trump’s Trade War.

While Trump has been waging trade war by Twitter, one of his least known but most corrupt Cabinet Secretaries has been running point behind the scenes.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is an ex-Wall Street private equity boss with a net worth of approximately $700 million. He’s also allegedly a grifter; there are multiple lawsuits past and present alleging Ross embezzled more than $120 million.

Ross oversees the implementation of Trump’s tariffs, in a process that is already being suspected of corruption and cronyism. As evidenced by the GOP Tax Scam, it pays to have corrupt friends in the Trump White House.

Trump and Ross share striking similarities. Both like to lie about their net worth. Both have lied about divesting from any companies that may pose conflicts of interest—Trump from his empire, Ross from a company whose owners include Putin’s son-in-law and other members of Putin’s inner circle.

One thing is clear: the Trump Administration has no coherent strategy around trade, and many Americans are going to pay the price while friends of the administration benefit. In fact, they already have.


When addressing a crowd about Ross’ appointment, Trump said: “In these positions, I just don’t want a poor person.”

When the public reacted poorly to Trump’s initially proposed steel and aluminum tariffs, Ross responded: “All this hysteria is a lot to do about nothing.” His substantiation? He held up a Campbell’s soup can and told Americans that rising consumer costs are no big deal.

Ross’ Campbell’s soup soliloquy is further proof: Trump, Ross, and their cronies are dangerously out of touch with the realities of everyday life for the majority of Americans.

And now they’re waging a trade war based on politics and personal grudges against our allies, but with real, concrete impacts on working Americans:

  • In South Carolina, Element Electronics is cutting 126 jobs as “a result of the new tariffs that were recently and unexpectedly imposed.”

We hope Ross has a better answer for them than “All this hysteria is a lot to do about nothing.”

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