Former Bush appointee briefs House Republicans on Trump, Xi

Larry Lindsey, the national economic council director under former President George W. Bush, delivered a presentation on US-China trade talks to senior House Republicans on Tuesday and said that as part of his analysis of the talks he enlisted the services of two psychiatrists to analyze President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to two sources.

In that analysis, Trump was rated as a “10-out-of-10 narcissist” who doesn’t have the capacity for long-term strategic ideals or goals, which Lindsey attributed to Trump’s upbringing, the sources said.

That came at the beginning of the presentation as Lindsey was trying to set the stage for his description of how the talks were playing out. The description was about two minutes of a 45-minute presentation “and certainly turned some heads,” one source said.

Tensions between the US and China are running high amid an escalating trade war between the two major world powers. On Monday, China announced tariffs on $60 billion in US exports in retaliation for Trump’s moves last week to hike existing tariffs imposed last year on Chinese goods — and to start the process of adding duties to almost everything else China sends to the US. Trump also said on Monday that he will meet with Xi at the G20 summit next month.

Lindsey’s closed-door remarks were first reported by Politico’s Playbook newsletter.

Lindsey said during his presentation that Xi was found to be equally narcissistic, but was in a different sphere than Trump because he was also considered to be a “Machiavellian” person who treated his deputies, and his country, poorly — something Lindsey didn’t attribute to Trump. The purpose was basically to the frame the conversation as “let’s look at who these two people are,” the sources said.

But Lindsey went on to largely back Trump’s position in the trade talks, the sources added, and in the discussion spent the lion’s share of the time talking about the two economies — and the idea that while Trump has pushed things to a place the US has never been before, it’s not tenable for him to back down now.

He went on to say that the US economy is better positioned and while the fight will likely be protracted, the US is more able to sustain its position than China. He noted that China certainly wouldn’t back down and would be willing to “go to the mat” in the fight, but that the US would be able to outlast them.

The presentation’s bottom line, the sources said, was there will be pain, but at this stage in the process, it’s necessary to carry the talks to completion — and that the US was better positioned to come out on top.

A representative for Lindsey did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The White House declined to comment for this story.

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.