Trump Adviser Sessions Meets With Top Conservative Economists

Donald Trump’s up again, down again relationship with conservative economists appears to be up again.

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s advisers are set to meet with Stephen Moore and Lawrence Kudlow, two of the conservative movement’s leading economic thought leaders, on Thursday in Washington, the FOX Business Network has learned.

The meeting will be led by senior Trump adviser, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and will cover a number of topics but focus on Trump’s tax plan, according to people with direct knowledge of the meeting.

Kudlow, a television commentator and former economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and Moore, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and FOX Business Network contributor, declined to discuss the upcoming meeting and their broader involvement with the Trump campaign. A spokesman for Sessions, who was scheduled to appear as a guest on the Fox News Channel’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto” Wednesday, had no immediate comment. Trump himself is not expected to attend, these people add.

Following the publication of our report, Hope Hicks, spokesperson for Donald Trump, told FOX Business, “Mr. Trump regularly meets with experts to inform his policies and ideas. There are no changes to the tax plan  being discussed.”

Kudlow and Moore are considered “unofficial advisers” to the Trump campaign on economic issues through the group they helped create, the Committee to Unleash Prosperity. But their relationship has been rocky at times and both men disagree with Trump on some of his positions, including his stance on free trade.

The duo met with Trump last month at his headquarters in New York’s Trump Tower and proposed some changes to Trump’s current tax plan, which calls for a reduction of rates from the current top level of 39.6% to 25%, with other brackets falling from current levels to 10% and 20%, respectively.

Though both Kudlow and Moore adhere to the “supply side” school of economics, meaning they believe tax cuts lead to greater economic growth, they also believed Trump’s plan was too aggressive and would lead to massive budget deficits, according Kyle Pomerleau, Tax Foundation director of federal projects.

With that Kudlow and Moore proposed to Trump in their meeting last month more modest tax cuts with rates starting at 28% for the top income earners and then dropping to 25% and 15%, Pomerleau said. They also pushed Trump to limit some deductions—moves that some believed would skew the plan to more heavily favor wealthy earners over the middle class—but would also lessen the intial budget short fall.

In addition, Kudlow and Moore proposed a more aggressive cut in the capital gains tax in an effort to spur business investment.

At the time, the Trump campaign dismissed the suggestions and distanced itself from both men. Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign told the New York Times “There are no changes being made to the plan…They [Kudlow and Moore] do not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.”

But since the meeting, Trump has come under sharp criticism from various economists for aspects of his tax plan and his economic policies, such as his plans to engage in what some say is a trade war with global partners like China by imposing tariffs on their goods. Trump says the move would lead to better trade deals that favor American workers and will keep jobs at home; Many economists say such moves could lead to higher inflation and less exports in the long run.

Trump said in a television interview that he could renegotiate terms of what the country owes creditors like China, a move some economists said was the first step toward a default. He later clarified his remarks saying as president, the U.S. would never default on its debt.

Trump has also suggested that his plan is up for negotiation with Democrats in Congress, who favor increasing taxes on the wealthy, if he’s elected president—comments that brought criticism from conservatives. Trump has tried to clarify his remarks as well by walking back those statements, but many conservatives and business community leaders are still worried he will vacillate from his initial pro-growth tax agenda.

Thursday’s meeting with Kudlow and Moore could assuage the fears many conservatives have with Trump’s erratic statements on economic issues, people with direct knowledge of the meeting tell FOX Business.

“[Kudlow and Moore] want to influence their views and hope they can mold the candidates to have a free market view,” said one person with direct knowledge of the meeting. “These guys were all Reaganites, they are very much what you would call supply siders. They are supply economists, very much into tax cuts.”

Update 5pm ET 5/18/16: Includes comment from Trump spokesperson.