Coverage: Economic advisor Cohn resigns over tariff dispute
Gary Cohn, the White House’s top economic adviser, announced Tuesday he was leaving the administration amid a major internal clash over President Donald Trump’s pivot toward protectionist trade policies.
Damian Paletta and Philip Rucker of The Washington Post had the news:
The departure of Cohn, the 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 leaves the White House without a financial heavyweight that 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 faction of free trade advocates who hold more traditional views on economics and more closely align with Republican leaders in Congress.
Kate Kelly and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times reported that Cohn’s departure could have a ripple effect:
It leaves Mr. Trump surrounded primarily by advisers with strong protectionist views who advocate the types of aggressive trade measures, like tariffs, that Mr. Cohn fought. Mr. Cohn was viewed by Republican lawmakers as the steady hand who could prevent Mr. Trump from engaging in activities that could trigger a trade war.
Even the mere threat, last August, that Mr. Cohn might leave sent the financial markets tumbling. On Tuesday, news of Mr. Cohn’s plan to resign rattled markets, and trading in futures pointed to a decline in the United States stock market when it opened on Wednesday.
In a statement, Mr. Cohn said he had been pleased to work on “pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform.” White House officials said that Mr. Cohn was leaving on cordial terms with the president and that they planned to discuss policy even after his departure.
Jeff Mason of Reuters reported that Cohn began to sour on Trump last summer:
Cohn’s relationship with Trump began to sour last summer, after Cohn disagreed with the president’s tepid response to clashes between neo-Nazis and anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, sources close to Cohn said.
Cohn, a Democrat, had aligned himself with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who are both senior White House advisers and like Cohn, are seen as centrists.
Cohn, a former president and chief operating officer of investment bank Goldman Sachs, was seen as a bulwark within the White House against protectionist policies. Business lobbyists frequently cited Cohn as their strongest ally in the White House.
“Gary Cohn deserves credit for serving his country in a first class way. I’m sure I join many others who are disappointed to see him leave,” Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs and Cohn’s former boss, said on Twitter.