This week, Donald Trump’s top economic advisor, Gary Cohn, announced his resignation as Director of the National Economic Council. Though Gary Cohn had talked for several months about potentially leaving, his departure still comes as a surprise.
Cohn, a former Wall Street banker, played an integral part in the creation of the tax reform bill passed in late 2017, that provided a bonanza for large corporations. He also supported the rollback of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly known as Dodd-Frank.
Disagreement with Trump Policies
Gary Cohn’s announcement of his resignation came shortly after Trump declared his plan for tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Cohn had hotly opposed the plan. The new tariffs, which will take effect in about two weeks, will consist of a 25 percent tariff on imported steel, and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. Initially, Trump had wanted to levy the tariffs globally, but has agreed to exempt Canada and Mexico for now.
Gary Cohn, who leaned more to the left than other Trump staffers, disagreed with various Trump policies. In addition to his opposition to Trump’s tariff proposal, Cohn had been against the United States’ pulling out of the Paris Accords. He had also had vocally disagreed with Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, in which Trump stated that there were “good people on both sides.”
Though Gary Cohn will be the 19th Trump staffer to leave the White House, Donald Trump maintains that the churn is perfectly normal, and that there is no chaos in the White House. Earlier on the day of Cohn’s announced resignation, Trump tweeted: “The new fake news narrative is that there is CHAOS in the white house. Wrong! People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no chaos, only great energy!”
Some speculate that Trump’s remark about “People that I want to change…” may signal that Gary Cohn was forced to resign. Seen as a globalist, Gary Cohn was often derided within the Trump Administration as “Globalist Gary.” Cohn’s position has frequently flown in the face of Trump’s general “America First” policy of economic nationalism.
Indeed, the rise of protectionism, even beyond the United States, gives rise to speculation about Gary Cohn’s departure at this time. According to journalist Charlie Gasparino, Trump called each of his cabinet members into his office and asked if they were for or against the proposed tariffs (thus, whether or not they supported Trump’s policy). Cohn was not able to say yes.
Did Gary Cohn see the Trump tariff order as the last straw, solidifying his decision to resign? Or, after his inability to side with Trump on the steel and aluminum tariffs, was he forced to resign? Whether we see the steady stream of White House departures as chaos, or as normal churn, the White House has a way of swiftly relieving itself of staff members like Gary Cohn, who don’t see eye-to-eye with the President.
Toobin: Cohn Stomached Racism, but Not Tariffs | CNN [2018-03-07]
Gary Cohn Was Effectively Fired: Gasparino | Fox Business [2018-03-07]