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Another day, another departure: Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn quits over tariffs

A former Goldman Sachs president, Gary Cohn was vehemently opposed to the President’s protectionist trade policies and speculation about his departure had been around for months, going back to his criticism of Trump’s position on Charlottesville race riots.

world Updated: Mar 07, 2018 23:34 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,Gary Cohn,Tariffs disagreement
White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US.(Reuters File Photo)

US President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn announced his resignation on Tuesday amid reports of differences over stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports that have divided the White House and the ruling Republican party.

A former Goldman Sachs president, the 57-year-old Cohn was vehemently opposed to the President’s protectionist trade policies and speculation about his departure had been around for months, going back to his criticism of Trump’s position on Charlottesville race riots.

The departure of Cohn, director of the national economic council, is the latest in a very long list of high-profile aides leaving the White House and there is talk of more people taking the exit door.

Trump last week announced he planned a 25% tariff on steel and 10% on aluminum imports to protect American manufacturers. But the move ran into opposition within the administration, free-traders such as Cohn, and congressional Republican leaders such as speaker of the House Paul Ryan and other leading lawmakers.

Cohn had tried to stop the President from going through with the tariffs but is understood to have lost out to commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, trade adviser Peter Navarro and others.

Bloomberg wire service, citing sources, said Trump had sought Cohn’s cooperation at a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday but it didn’t work and hours later, the White House announced the departure.

Cohn’s resignation comes within days of Hope Hicks quitting as communications director, the fourth in nearly 14 months of Trump’s presidency.

Others who left include chief of staff Reince Priebus, press secretary and communications director Sean Spicer and NSA Michael Flynn.

There is speculation that NSA HR McMaster, attorney general Jeff Sessions and secretary of state Rex Tillerson could join the already crowded queue.

Cohn’s exit came hours after Trump sought to counter the perception chaos in his White House. People were always leaving and joining, he had tweeted, adding, “I still have some people that I want to change”. He refused to be specific at a news conference later. Cohn’s departure was announced shortly after.

“Gary…did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again,” President Trump said in a statement.

In the same statement from the White House, Cohn said it was an honour to serve the country and enact pro-growth economic policies.

A life-long Democrat, Cohn had come to be seen as a champion of free trade along with the President’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Former chief strategist Steven Bannon, who led the economic nationalists, had derisively branded them the “globalists”.

Cohn had tried to prevent the President from going through with the tariffs but is understood to have lost out to commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, trade adviser Peter Navarro and other protectionists such as Trump.

Talk of Cohn’s exit had started in the aftermath of the race riots in August. He is reported to have drafted a resignation letter after Trump tried to blame “both sides” for the clashes that left a woman dead. Cohn changed his mind but did say publicly the administration must do better to condemn hate groups.

First Published: Mar 07, 2018 09:29 IST