It is unlikely anyone was surprised that President Donald Trump announced steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum this week, but what might have been surprising was the way it seemed to happen 'off the cuff'.
As it turns out, there is good reason to perceive it happened that way.
According to two officials, Trump's decision to launch a potential trade war was born out of anger at other simmering issues and the result of a broken internal process that has failed to deliver him consensus views that represent the best advice of his team.
On Wednesday evening, the president became "unglued," in the words of one official familiar with the president's state of mind.
What were the issues that set off the president?
The result, according to the officials speaking with NBC News, was that Trump was angry and ready to rumble -- and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross already had a meeting lined up with steel company executives to set the stage.
Trump's economic chair Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin were long at odds with Ross and the president on how to approach trade deficits, with the former advocating a more free trade stance and the latter leaning hard toward American protectionism.
But Ross neglected to inform all relevant parties that a meeting with the steel executives was on the schedule, and Trump walked in without adequate preparation.
There were no prepared, approved remarks for the president to give at the planned meeting, there was no diplomatic strategy for how to alert foreign trade partners, there was no legislative strategy in place for informing Congress and no agreed upon communications plan beyond an email cobbled together by Ross's team at the Commerce Department late Wednesday that had not been approved by the White House.
No one at the State Department, the Treasury Department or the Defense Department had been told that a new policy was about to be announced or given an opportunity to weigh in in advance.
In the end, reporters were called in after just an hour to cover a surprise announcement by the president: tariffs on both imported steel and aluminum.
Markets tumbled on the news, and according to officials, Trump was furious.
In the wee hours of Friday morning, however, the president was boasting confidence in the decision, tweeting that trade wars are easily won:
When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!