'He's gone off the rails': Trump trade adviser survived near-firing over abusive treatment of staffers
Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro (Screen cap).

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has been investigated for allegedly abusive treatment of Trump administration staffers.

Complaints about Navarro's abrasive behavior reached then-White House chief of staff John Kelly in 2018, and a former senior adviser told the Washington Post those complaints were investigated.

“If it’s worse than what I’m hearing, you’re gone,” Kelly told Navarro, according to a source familiar with the exchange. “If it’s as bad as what I’m hearing, I don’t know. You may be gone.”

Women who worked at the White House seemed to suffer the most verbal abuse, and interviews with 28 current and former administration officials, congressional aides and business executives found the 71-year-old Navarro routinely exploded at assistants, assigned them to take notes in meetings instead of participate, and schemed to undermine other officials.

Navarro was dismissive when Kelly confronted him, but the White House counsel's investigation eventually concluded that he had been verbally abusive and resulted in informal counseling instead of more serious action.

“They couldn't make any real findings because he was hostile to everybody, not just women,” said one former White House official.

The intervention seemed to work at first, but Navarro resumed his abusive behavior after Kelly resigned in December 2018 and recently screamed at a low-level government procurement officer over a purchase of medical supplies under the Defense Production Act.

“Are you loyal to China or to the American taxpayer?” Navarro yelled, according to one source, and others recalled similar behavior.

But, according to other administration officials, Navarro is "untouchable" because President Donald Trump likes him, even if he's alienated other officials and outside allies.

“He’s gone off the rails,” said one former ally who cut off contact with Navarro earlier this year.