Gary Cohn tolerated Trump’s racism, but tariffs are too much for him

Cohn almost resigned last year, but wanted to pass tax cuts for the wealthy first.

Gary Cohn. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Gary Cohn. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser and director of the National Economic Council, plans to resign, The New York Times reported Tuesday evening.

Cohn’s resignation comes a few days after Trump announced his plan to impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum — a plan Cohn vehemently opposed. Politico reported last week that Cohn, who had been rumored to be on the edge of resigning since last summer, stayed in his position specifically to prevent Trump from implementing tariffs.

White House reporters today noticed Cohn’s absence from the president’s news conference with the prime minister of Sweden, a news conference that was heavily focused on the impending tariffs.

That Cohn would resign over the proposed tariffs is somewhat surprising, particularly considering all that he has endured during his 410 days in the White House.

Cohn, a Democrat and former Goldman Sachs executive, had been on shaky footing with the Trump White House since August of 2017, when the president defended the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying there were “very fine people on both sides.” According to The New York Times, Cohn had drafted a letter of resignation, but ultimately changed his mind, much to the dismay of his friends and family who Cohn said put “enormous pressure” on him to leave his post.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Cohn condemned Trump’s statements.

“As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post… because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks,” he said. “Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK.”

At the time, Cohn was in the middle of helping the White House overhaul the tax code for the first time in nearly three decades and thought it best if he stayed in his job to see the legislation passed.

As a result, Republicans were able to pass a tax bill that overwhelmingly benefits the wealthiest Americans, like Cohn himself. He was one of the president’s loudest cheerleaders for the tax plan, making the rounds on numerous cable news shows and making guest appearances at White House press briefings to tout the benefits of the tax plan for middle class Americans. Cohn even suggested that middle class families will be able to use their $1,000 from tax savings to “renovate their kitchen” or “buy a new car” — two things that cost far more than $1,000.

Once non-partisan organizations like the Tax Policy Center released analyses showing the meager middle class tax cut will disappear over time, eventually turning into a tax hike, Cohn backtracked on his promise that the wealthy would not be getting a tax cut and struggled to defend the president in the media. At one point, Cohn even faked a bad signal on the phone so he could avoid speaking with Trump about tax policy.

Cohn’s departure is already shaking up the White House — he was considered by many to be a “moderate” figure in an inner circle full of nationalists who viewed Cohn as a “globalist.”

Axios White House reporter Jonathan Swan tweeted that a few of his White House sources sent him messages about Cohn with the globe emoji, used by members of the alt-right and nationalists to signify “globalists.”