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This time it’s Gary Cohn, President Trump’s top economic adviser, who decided that the president’s absurd tariffs proposal was the hill he chose to die on.
- From WaPo: “Gary Cohn, the White House’s top economic adviser, announced Tuesday that he was leaving the administration amid a major internal clash over President Trump’s sharp and sudden pivot toward protectionist trade policies. The departure of Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs who had been an interlocutor between the Trump administration and the business community, is the latest jolt to a White House that has been especially tumultuous in recent weeks and unable to retain some of its top
talent. His resignation as National Economic Council director will leave the White House without a financial heavyweight who business executives and foreign leaders believed had served as a counter to Trump’s protectionist impulses and as a moderating force in other areas.”
- “Last week, communications director Hope Hicks resigned. In February, staff secretary Rob Porter was forced out over domestic abuse allegations. That followed the departures of deputy national security adviser Dina Powell and Cohn’s deputy on the National Economic Council, Jeremy Katz. Taken together, the departures diminish the White House faction of free trade advocates who hold more traditional views on economics and more closely align with Republican leaders in Congress.”
- “This came after Cohn spent months trying to steer Trump away from tariffs and trade wars. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also lobbied against the tariffs. But they were eventually outmaneuvered by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, trade adviser Peter Navarro and ultimately Trump himself. Financial markets reacted negatively to Cohn’s announcement, with Dow futures diving immediately afterward.”
- “Trump admired Cohn as a wealthy titan of Wall Street, but the two men had an on-again, off-again relationship—which was nearly severed in August after the deadly white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville. After privately seething over Trump’s claim that ‘both sides’ were responsible for the violence, Cohn voiced his criticism publicly in an interview with the Financial Times that was interpreted as a rebuke of his boss. But Trump and Cohn repaired their relationship during last fall’s push for tax cuts, which became the administration’s first major legislative accomplishment.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Notice here that Cohn didn’t leave after Trump’s white-supremacist comments, or after he did any of the many things he does that target minorities and immigrants and LGBTQ people. He stayed then because of tax cuts, and he’s leaving now because Trump is acting contrary to the desires of multinational corporations. You could make the argument, of course, that Trump’s white-supremacist talk didn’t directly conflict with Cohn’s gig; you could also argue, however, that this shows where the former Goldman Sachs executive’s priorities lie.
- That being said, it’s not like the multinationals are the only ones opposing Trump’s half-baked tariff idea. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, a majority of Americans disapprove of the tariff plan, and nearly two-thirds believe (accurately) that a trade war would be good for the U.S.
- As the Post story noted, Cohn is just the tip of the iceberg for an unusually unstable administration. From the AP: “President Donald Trump once presided over a reality show in which a key cast member exited each week. The same thing seems to be happening in his White House. Trump’s West Wing has descended into a period of unparalleled tumult amid a wave of staff departures—and despite the president’s insistence that it’s a place of ‘no Chaos, only great Energy!’ The latest key figure to announce an exit: Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, who had clashed with Trump over trade policy.”
- “Cohn’s departure has sparked internal fears of an even larger exodus, raising concerns in Washington of a coming ‘brain drain’ around the president that will only make it more difficult to advance his already languishing policy agenda. While Trump has publicly tried to dispel perceptions of disarray, multiple White House officials said the president has been pushing anxious aides to stay on the job to try to staunch the bleeding. ‘Everyone wants to work in the White House,’ Trump insisted during a news conference Tuesday. ‘They all want a piece of the Oval Office.’ The reality is a far different story.”