Gary Cohn quits after losing trade battle with Trump
Gary Cohn, Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, has resigned after losing a heated White House battle over tariffs, dealing a big blow to Washington Republicans and business leaders seeking to prevent the president from igniting a global trade war.
The exit is the latest in a series of high-level White House departures and is likely to fuel concerns about an administration in chaos. It will also raise questions about the direction of US economic policy now that Mr Cohn — a pro-trade, pro-market former Wall Street banker — is no longer heading the National Economic Council.
Stock prices and the dollar were unsettled as markets considered the implications, with the S&P 500 down 0.9 per cent in opening Wall Street trade on Wednesday. Bond prices also strengthened, a signal of demand for safe assets, while equities also fell in Asia, although they bounced higher in Europe.
In a statement, the White House said Mr Cohn, the 57-year-old former number two at Goldman Sachs who was once considered by Mr Trump as a candidate to lead the Federal Reserve, would be leaving in the coming weeks.
“It has been an honour to serve my country and enact pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform,” Mr Cohn said. “I am grateful to the president for giving me this opportunity and wish him and the administration great success in the future.”
Mr Trump tweeted that he would be “making a decision soon on the appointment of new Chief Economic Advisor. Many people wanting the job — will choose wisely!”
In a statement, the president said Mr Cohn had done “a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again”. He added: “He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people.”
A pragmatic, focused leader who was popular among White House staffers, Mr Cohn is understood to have resisted to the end Mr Trump’s plans to roll out steel and aluminium tariffs in the name of US national security. He has been joined in opposition to the plan by cabinet members including Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary; Rex Tillerson, secretary of state; and Jim Mattis, defence secretary.
Earlier in the day, the president dismissed reports of chaos within his administration, saying his White House had “tremendous energy”. But the president conceded: “I like conflict . . . I like watching it, I like seeing it, and I think it’s the best way to go. I like different points of view.”
Mr Cohn’s resignation comes in the immediate aftermath of the departures of Hope Hicks, former White House communications director, and Rob Porter, who was the staff secretary. It coincides with concerns that the policymaking process has become disorderly despite the presence of John Kelly, who replaced Reince Priebus as chief of staff last year.
Mr Cohn is leaving after Mr Trump ignored his advice and made an ad hoc announcement last week that he planned to impose tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium on imports from all countries.
Mr Trump is expected to sign those tariffs into law in the coming days. The EU, Canada and other countries have vowed to retaliate.