Charlotte firm helped finance past film project by Trump adviser, report says

Workers at the Nucor steel mill in Huger, S.C., in April 2017.
Workers at the Nucor steel mill in Huger, S.C., in April 2017. NY

Charlotte-based steel maker Nucor provided financing for a trade documentary that was produced by a now-top adviser to President Donald Trump, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, in an arrangement that illustrates the close ties between Trump and the industry.

The White House recently imposed tariffs that are expected to benefit the steel makers.

In 2011, Nucor paid $1 million to a San Diego nonprofit called the Utility Consumers’ Action Network, according to the paper. The group then paid Peter Navarro, now an influential Trump adviser, to make “Death by China,” a film about how China’s trade policy threatens the U.S.

The payments were later scrutinized as part of a broader 2012 FBI investigation of the nonprofit’s finances, the Journal reported, citing three former employees of the nonprofit. No charges were filed.

Dan DiMicco, Nucor’s CEO from 2000 to 2012, told the paper that the company paid for the film through the nonprofit at the request of Navarro.

“Peter asked and we agreed,” DiMicco, who served as a Trump campaign adviser, told the Journal. “Peter directed us where to make payment. We had no part in that decision nor did we try to camouflage our support.”

In a statement Friday, Nucor said the company for years has been vocal on trade issues, working “with organizations and individuals that bring attention to China’s predatory trade practices and the impact they have had on our U.S. manufacturing sector and jobs.”

Navarro and DiMicco “worked together on the issue of Chinese trade for many years,” the statement continued. “After Mr. DiMicco and Mr. Navarro co-authored several opinion pieces on the issue in 2009 and 2010, Nucor decided in 2011 to fund Mr. Navarro’s documentary film on China’s trade practices. The documentary provided another medium to discuss this critical economic issue.”

The White House told the Journal that Trump’s position on trade has been clear for decades.

Nucor has been a strong backer of the tariffs recently announced by Trump.

“We thank the President for taking decisive and meaningful action to address the massive flood of dumped and illegally subsidized steel imports into the United States,” Nucor CEO John Ferriola said in a statement March 8. “For too many years, Nucor and other American steelmakers have dealt with this chronic problem, which is fueled by foreign governments’ subsidies and preferential treatment for their steel industries in violation of international trade agreements and free market principles.”

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker