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Top economic adviser Gary Cohn leaves White House in wake of tariff rift

President Donald Trump's top economic ad...

Posted: Mar 6, 2018 7:32 PM
Updated: Mar 6, 2018 7:32 PM

President Donald Trump's top economic adviser Gary Cohn is resigning, the White House announced on Tuesday.

Cohn, who had been rumored just weeks ago as a potential next chief of staff, will leave the White House in the wake of his fierce disagreement with the President's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Cohn is expected to leave in the coming weeks, the White House said.

"Gary has been my chief economic adviser and did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again. He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people," Trump said in a statement.

Cohn's resignation sounded alarm bells in establishment circles in Washington and on Wall Street, where many viewed the former Goldman Sachs executive as a steadying influence on economic policy inside the Trump White House. His departure, combined with Trump's recent moves to recommit himself to his nationalist trade agenda, raised questions about the direction of the Trump administration and sent Dow futures plummeting 300 points.

"Wall Street won't be happy," said a senior Republican who has worked both at the White House and in finance. "We knew he was hanging in by a thread, but it is terrible news."

The latest shake-up also amplified the chaos that has consumed the White House in recent weeks, with Cohn becoming just the latest in a series of high-profile resignations in recent weeks. It was not immediately clear who would succeed him as director of the White House's National Economic Council.

The New York Times first reported the news.

Cohn's position with Trump has been tenuous since last summer, when Cohn rebuked the President over his comments about a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While they smoothed over their relationship as Cohn successfully worked to get tax reform -- the President's only major legislative accomplishment -- passed, a person close to the matter said it "was never the same."

As recently as last week, Cohn was still thinking he could hold on -- and wanted to, this person says -- but losing the tariff fight made clear that it was time to leave, the person said.

"Trade was the last straw," the same person said.

In the days since Trump's surprise announcement, Cohn worked quietly to soften Trump's decision and convince him to backtrack -- a campaign that was amplified by Republican leaders on Capitol Hill -- but Trump learned of the efforts, became angry at Cohn's attempts and made that clear in the last 24 to 48 hours.

Trump was surprised to learn that Cohn was working to arrange a meeting with representatives from the auto and bottling industries in an effort to demonstrate the effects the steel and aluminum tariffs would have, a person familiar with the situation said.

The President has said he's not interested in such a meeting, and has grown angry at what he sees as attempts to deter him from the plan, speaking disparagingly of "globalists" during internal conversations over the past week, the person said.

Cohn said in a statement it had been an "honor to serve my country and enact pro-growth economic policies" and thanked Trump for the opportunity.

White House chief of staff John Kelly said he would "miss having him as a partner in the White House."

Disputes over trade, Charlottesville

The move is likely to embolden the economic nationalist wing of the Trump administration, which has successfully moved Trump to take aggressive steps on trade in recent weeks.

For months, Cohn led the internal opposition to Trump's protectionist interests, working to rein in Trump's desire to slap steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. But his campaign fell apart last week when Trump sidestepped Cohn and announced his plans to impose the tariffs during a hastily arranged meeting with US steel and aluminum executives.

Just weeks earlier, Cohn was rumored as a potential successor to White House chief of staff John Kelly -- a remarkable turnaround in the Trump-Cohn relationship. it nearly fell apart last summer after Cohn offered a thinly veiled public rebuke of the President's response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Cohn said then that the administration "can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning" hate groups after Trump blamed both white supremacists and counter-protesters for Charlottesville and said there were "some very fine people" among those protesting alongside white supremacists.

At the time, Cohn acknowledged in an interview with the Financial Times the pressure he faced to resign amid Trump's comments, but said he had decided to stay.

For weeks after that rebuke, Trump privately fumed about Cohn to advisers inside and outside the White House, with sources signaling that Cohn was only remaining on because of his critical role on tax reform.

But the passage of tax reform would not be Cohn's final act in the White House, remaining on board for more than two months, with his allies saying he hoped to continue to counteract Trump's protectionist trade instincts.

Cohn was once in consideration to be the next Federal Reserve chairman, but Trump's anger at Cohn over his rebuke last summer took him out of consideration, CNN reported then.

The questions about Cohn's status inside the West Wing returned in the last week after Trump announced his plans to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. That suspicion was furthered on Tuesday -- hours before the White House announced his plans to resign -- when Cohn was absent from a joint news conference the President was holding at the White House.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 608519

Reported Deaths: 9693
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion840461335
Lake45349684
Allen32803548
Hamilton29394315
St. Joseph27380381
Elkhart24404345
Vanderburgh19411249
Tippecanoe17970138
Johnson15069295
Porter14783169
Hendricks14401248
Madison10965221
Vigo10726181
Clark10677144
Monroe9383110
Delaware9116134
LaPorte9065163
Howard8236144
Kosciusko806983
Warrick672999
Hancock6697104
Bartholomew6484100
Floyd6428110
Wayne6136162
Grant5991115
Dubois555579
Boone551168
Morgan541295
Henry507864
Marshall503984
Cass483263
Dearborn479845
Noble473059
Jackson425047
Shelby417581
Lawrence391079
Clinton373043
Gibson370359
Harrison348144
DeKalb347164
Montgomery345754
Knox335639
Miami321444
Steuben313745
Whitley307326
Wabash303251
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White273243
Daviess270474
Jefferson263338
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Fayette247148
Greene239862
Posey239328
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Scott225339
Clay222532
Randolph213548
Jennings198936
Sullivan192333
Spencer191321
Washington186423
Fountain184027
Starke175443
Jay167623
Owen165737
Fulton164030
Orange159534
Carroll158015
Rush155118
Perry154229
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Franklin148333
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Parke13078
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Blackford111022
Pulaski97037
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Martin73713
Warren6817
Switzerland6615
Union6287
Ohio4907
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 859841

Reported Deaths: 10680
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin101171707
Cuyahoga855711125
Hamilton64017448
Montgomery43107418
Summit34836761
Lucas31350625
Butler30973232
Stark25786435
Warren19671140
Lorain19017223
Mahoning17321338
Lake16080154
Clermont15926111
Delaware1438878
Licking13204137
Trumbull12809316
Fairfield1279381
Greene12055137
Medina11591168
Clark10942265
Wood10348158
Allen9897126
Portage9296109
Miami916873
Richland9139118
Marion7459113
Tuscarawas7381182
Columbiana7327124
Pickaway726150
Wayne7034171
Muskingum703141
Erie6152129
Hancock552390
Ross548998
Scioto539164
Geauga508455
Darke470292
Ashtabula453073
Lawrence452654
Union451828
Sandusky436662
Mercer433589
Seneca430166
Huron428741
Auglaize422264
Shelby421222
Jefferson419269
Belmont416840
Washington388740
Athens38009
Putnam374975
Madison355129
Knox352622
Ashland344938
Fulton338443
Defiance330086
Crawford322374
Preble320637
Brown312921
Logan307332
Ottawa293943
Clinton290143
Williams278667
Highland275118
Jackson263845
Guernsey254125
Champaign252028
Fayette236530
Morrow23234
Perry231318
Holmes225474
Henry218749
Hardin213033
Coshocton205622
Van Wert202245
Gallia196726
Wyandot196051
Pike176217
Adams176115
Hocking172024
Carroll155616
Paulding144321
Noble120540
Meigs108624
Monroe100732
Harrison89121
Morgan83130
Vinton70213
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