Trump Economic Advisor Cohn Considering Exit Over Tariff Issue

Gary Cohn, senior economic advisor to President Donald Trump, could be leaving his position as director of the National

Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn | 7/25/17 (Official White House Photo by Evan Walker)

Economic Council in response to the president’s imposition of high tariffs on steel and aluminum announced last week by Trump.

This is not the first time Cohn’s continuation as economic advisor to Trump has come into question. The first time Cohn seriously considered stepping down from his position was after Trump’s comments about White Supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia after a march there ended in violence. Cohn had written several versions of resignation letters after Trump appeared to praise the racists while criticizing the protesters against them. In the end Cohn did not send his resignation to the president. Cohn was instrumental in getting Trump’s big tax cut bill passed last year.

Now however, despite Cohn’s heroic efforts to dissuade Trump from imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum, he could not change Trump’s mind, and might not be willing to take this last, deep insult. This new blow might just be the last straw for Cohn. Allies of Cohn began to think he would finally leave after the stock market fell 500 points in response to Trump’s announcement.

The imposition on tariffs is a violation of one of Cohn’s core beliefs about economic prosperity and growth: that protectionism is economically backward and does not lead to increased prosperity.

“It’s just something he feels very passionate about and he is incredibly good at making the case,” said someone close to Cohn. However, this person is not certain this will be the decision that forces Cohn out.

Cohn is not alone in his disapproval of tariffs. Larry Kudlow, and outside advisor who is frequently mentioned as a possible successor to Cohn, was critical of the president’s announcement.

“All that will happen with steel tariffs is you will raise prices for all import users and that includes businesses and of course consumers,” Kudlow said. “You will wind up hurting millions of people to help 140,000 people in the steel industry. You will be hurting car buyers. Is that really what you want to do?”

Gail Nussbaum

Gail Nussbaum has been involved in politics and diplomacy for over 15 years. Her interest in foreign relations, economics and budget policy has led her to her position as fiscal policy writer at Left Justified. Gail can be contacted at gailnussbaum(at)

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