White House spokesman does not deny that Carl Icahn was tipped off

A curious non-explanation from Raj Shah.

Trump White House spokesman Raj Shah
Trump White House spokesman Raj Shah on ABC's This Week on Sunday. CREDIT: ABC News screenshot

A White House spokesman offered a non-denial and a curious explanation for why Trump confidant Carl Icahn dumped millions of dollars worth of steel-related stock just before the president announced new tariffs.

As ThinkProgress initially reported, billionaire investor and close Trump confidant Carl Icahn sold $31.3 million of stock in a company heavily dependent on steel in late February, just days before Trump’s surprise announcement on plans to impose steep tariffs on steel imports. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dodged questions about whether Trump had tipped Icahn off, promising to “verify and get back to” a reporter.

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On Sunday, ABC News host Jon Karl repeated the question to Huckabee Sanders’ principal deputy, Raj Shah, who responded by saying equally little.

“I don’t know of any call,” Shah answered.

He then suggested that Icahn might have made the determination to suddenly sell the stock based on the fact that Trump has been talking about taking action for a really long time. “I do think that Mr. Icahn and any investor could have looked at what the president has been saying for not just months but years about this issue, to understand where he was at.” Of course, none of Trump’s previous protectionist statements noted a March 1, 2018 date of action.

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Last week, Icahn issued a statement defending the sales, claiming, “Any suggestion that we had prior knowledge of the Trump administration’s announcement of new tariffs on steel imports is categorically untrue.”

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James Cox, a Duke Law professor and expert on insider trading, told ThinkProgress at the time that Ichan’s statement was “perfectly predictable, perfectly bland and devoid of anything other than conclusory statements,” likening it to a suspected bank robber caught with a bag full of money saying, “I have all this cash because I found it on the street.” He noted that while Icahn could be telling the truth, more investigation is needed.

Shah’s statement on Sunday did little clear up those questions.