Trump's "China muse" advisor has been citing a made-up economist for years

Another one of Trump's close cabinet has been revealed as a lying con artist, surprising absolutely no one.

This time, it's Peter Navarro, a Harvard-educated economist and policy advisor who currently serves in the White House as the Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy (OTMP). He's basically served as Trump's right-hand man for all things regarding Chinese trade, despite, erm, having very little experience with China to begin with.

Trump's legion of born-into-privilege cronies is of course full of people who lack lived experience and/or have a knack for exploiting people in their most vulnerable moments. But Navarro is still a pretty remarkable example. For more than a decade, he's been backing up his bullshit arguments by citing the expertise of a Harvard-educated economist named Ron Vara, the self-proclaimed "Dark Prince of Disaster," who made his money off stocks from companies profiting off of international crises.

"Ron Vara" is also an anagram for "Navarro." Which is convenient, because he is, in fact, Navarro, as the Chronicle uncovered:

Navarro has quoted Vara a dozen or so times in six books, usually as an epigraph before a chapter. In Death by China, published in 2011, Vara offers this sweeping assessment of the country's roughly 1.4 billion people: "Only the Chinese can turn a leather sofa into an acid bath, a baby crib into a lethal weapon, and a cellphone battery into heart-piercing shrapnel."


Those who know Navarro well, Autry says, were fully aware that Ron Vara was a phony source who often popped up in his books. He said Vara was Navarro's "alter ego," an "everyman character" who dispenses cutesy business aphorisms as well as dire warnings about Chinese food.

In other words, Navarro was clever enough to make up an alternate reality hero-worship version of himself just to quote his own cheeky aphorisms. But he wasn't clever enough to come up with a less obvious name. And he still got away with it for years.