GARY COHEN

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GARY COHEN -  ECONOMIC ADVISOR
Gary D. Cohn, President Trump’s top economic adviser, said on Tuesday that he would resign, becoming the latest in a series of high-profile departures from the Trump administration.

White House officials insisted that there was no single factor behind the departure of Mr. Cohn, who heads the National Economic Council. But his decision to leave came as he seemed poised to lose an internal struggle over Mr. Trump’s plan to impose large tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. 

Mr. Cohn had warned last week that he might resign if Mr. Trump followed through with the tariffs, which Mr. Cohn had lobbied against internally.

“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,” Mr. Trump said in a statement to The New York Times. “He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people.”

Mr. Cohn is expected to leave in the coming weeks. He will join a string of recent departures by senior White House officials, including Mr. Trump’s communications director and a powerful staff secretary.

Yet the departure of Mr. Cohn, a free-trade-oriented Democrat who fended off a number of nationalist-minded policies during his year in the Trump administration, could have a ripple effect on the president’s economic decisions and on the financial industry.

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It leaves Mr. Trump surrounded primarily by advisers with strong protectionist views who advocate the types of aggressive trade measures, like tariffs, that Mr. Trump campaigned on but that Mr. Cohn fought inside the White House. 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, Mr. Cohn’s announcement 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.

Mr. Cohn’s departure comes as the White House has been buffeted by turnover, uncertainty and internal divisions and as the president lashes out at the special counsel investigation that seems to be bearing down on his team.

MUMBLES  - 03/2018
•   Others are perpetually seen as on the way out. John F. Kelly, the chief of staff, at one point broached resigning over the handling of Mr. Porter’s case. 

•   Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, has been reported to be preparing to leave. 

•   And many officials wonder if Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will stay now that he has lost his top-secret security clearance; the departure of Mr. Cohn further shrinks the number of allies Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, have in the White House.

•   More than one in three top White House officials left by the end of Mr. Trump’s first year and fewer than half of the 12 positions closest to the president are still occupied by the same people as when he came into office, according to a Brookings Institution study.

•   Mr. Cohn’s departure will bring the turnover number to 43 percent, according to updated figures compiled by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution.


ONE TRACK TRUMP
Mr. Cohn was familiar with Mr. Trump’s nationalist stance on trade, and the president repeatedly asked aides, “Where are my steel tariffs?” over the last eight months. Since last summer, a process for debate and information flow to the president had been in place as he made decisions. But that process has been in tatters since Mr. Porter left the White House, several aides said on Tuesday.

What’s more, people close to the president said, Mr. Cohn had harmed his own ability to negotiate by telling Mr. Kelly last week that if the tariffs went forward, he might have to resign. The president was told by Cohn critics that Mr. Cohn had made the issue about himself, as opposed to Mr. Trump’s policies. 

That led to Mr. Trump souring on Mr. Cohn by the time his resignation was submitted on Tuesday. But the president was still infuriated by Mr. Cohn’s decision, according to multiple people who discussed it with the president after it was announced. In several conversations that Mr. Trump had with people on Tuesday, he denounced Mr. Cohn as a “globalist.”

As his chief economic adviser, Mr. Cohn quickly ingratiated himself to the president. He gave blunt, practical advice, say people familiar with their interactions, and built a team of experts on issues like infrastructure and taxes. At one point, he was part of a moderate-minded coalition of staff members — including Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump, also an adviser — who pushed for the preservation of workplace rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. He also pushed Mr. Trump to remain in the Paris climate accord, a battle he ultimately lost.

He argued frequently over Mr. Trump’s “America First” approach to trade, jousting most recently with the White House aide Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over the harm he believed nationalist economic policies would generate.

Shortly after his inauguration, Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an Obama-era trade agreement with a number of Asian nations. Then, on at least three occasions last year, Mr. Cohn rebuffed Mr. Navarro’s attempts to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Cohn was also part of a group of White House aides who effectively blocked the metal tariffs on several occasions.

Mr. Cohn’s rapport with Mr. Trump has been tenuous at times.  In August, after violent nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Va., that led to a woman’s death, Mr. Cohn was so troubled by the president’s response that he wrote a resignation letter, according to people briefed on the document. That time, Mr. Trump persuaded him to stay. But, loath to hide his feelings on the matter, he publicly criticized his boss, saying in a Financial Times interview that the administration “can and must do better” to condemn hate groups.



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