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Former Trump adviser shed millions in steel-related stock weeks ahead of tariff announcement

Heidi Gutman/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A former Trump adviser is raising eyebrows in the investment community after disclosing a multi-million dollar sell-off in shares of a construction company reliant on steel just weeks before the President announced a 25 percent tariff on steel imports.

Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor and former special adviser to President Trump, disclosed in a February 22 SEC filing that his companies had shed a $31.3 million stake in Manitowoc. The company, according to its website, is a leading “manufacturer of cranes and lifting solutions with manufacturing, distribution, and service facilities.”

Manitowoc’s share value dropped 6 percent on Thursday after President Trump’s steel tariffs announcement, and on Friday shares hovered around $26. When Icahn sold off his Manitowoc holdings in mid-February, shares were trading between $32 and $34.

Icahn served as a special adviser to President Trump until August of 2017.

In a resignation letter addressed to President Trump, Icahn rejected allegations that his proximity to the president had benefited his investment holdings: “I never had access to nonpublic information or profited from my position, nor do I believe that my role presented conflicts of interest,” Icahn wrote. “I never sought any special benefit for any company with which I have been involved, and have only expressed views that I believed would benefit the refining industry as a whole.”

Shortly after his August departure from the administration, The New Yorker published a lengthy profile of Icahn’s time in the White House, questioning if he was using his position to benefit his holdings.

As a candidate, Trump invoked Icahn’s name frequently on the campaign trail, touting him as the man he’d call in to handle trade deals, specifically with China.

“He's an unbelievably tough business guy… And I said, if I ever get there, I want you to oversee the negotiations with China,” Trump said of Icahn at a 2015 campaign rally in Alabama. “Unbelievable negotiator… Carl is one of the greats, very famous, very rich, and he would love to do it.”

In an appearance on CNBC Thursday morning, Icahn downplayed his relationship with the president, saying he hadn’t “had much interaction with [the president] at all in the last four or five months.”

Icahn’s SEC disclosure was first reported by Think Progress.

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