Dan DiMicco says he and Donald Trump had never met in person when the presidential candidate’s campaign approached the former CEO of Charlotte steelmaker Nucor Corp. about two months ago to serve as a trade adviser.
“I have communicated with him on and off over the last 10 years,” DiMicco, who stepped down as Nucor CEO in 2012, told the Observer in an interview Monday.
DiMicco, who lives in Waxhaw, said those roughly half a dozen phone conversations touched on topics including free trade and China – subjects DiMicco had written and spoken passionately about over the years.
On Friday, DiMicco announced on CNN the role he has been quietly holding as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s senior trade adviser.
“He’s very happy to have me be part of his team,” DiMicco said Monday, adding that it was a senior Trump policy adviser who extended the offer.
But it wasn’t until about two weeks ago that DiMicco said he attended his first gathering with Trump, in a meeting at Trump Tower in New York. DiMicco said he was invited to the tower by the campaign, to provide input on trade issues.
“It was very cordial,” DiMicco said of the meeting. “He knows who I am.”
Leading up to his latest role, DiMicco has been regarded as a critic of free-trade policies, which he argues have cost America millions of manufacturing jobs and shrunk its middle class. He has touted Trump’s trade policies on other nationally televised interviews, including on CNBC.
When DiMicco was chief executive of Nucor, the company sponsored town hall meetings across the U.S. to publicize problems facing American manufacturers, such as inexpensive Chinese imports. Similar views appear in books DiMicco has written, including last year’s “American Made: Why Making Things Will Return Us to Greatness.”
Trump has said he supports free trade. But central to his trade platform is an overhaul of the way the U.S. does business with China. The candidate has said China uses unlawful tariffs and other practices to keep American companies out of the country and to rig the playing field in favor of Chinese firms.
If elected, Trump has pledged to immediately declare China a currency manipulator.
On trade, DiMicco said he is advising Trump to “continue with what he is saying.”
“He needs to hold the world accountable to playing by the rules,” said DiMicco, who according to most recent Federal Election Commission data has not donated to Trump’s campaign. Data show a $5,400 donation in June 2015 to Republican Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, who dropped out of the race later that year.
DiMicco said he is backing Trump primarily because of the real estate mogul’s business accomplishments. Critics of Trump have questioned whether he’s fit to be president, pointing to comments he’s made about minorities and women.
“I’m supporting him because of several things,” DiMicco said.
“No. 1, he’s a successful businessman,” he said. “The one thing I know about a successful businessman and CEO is you don’t get there unless you learn to surround yourself with winners.”
“He’s not a racist. He’s not anti-immigrant,” DiMicco said. “He will not discourage immigration, but he wants it to be done legally and I support that.”
“He’s not a politician, so sometimes the words don’t come the way a politician’s would,” DiMicco said. “I know that he is a man that will get the job done.”