Gary Cohn Rumored On Brink Of Resignation Over Trump Trade War

In the latest sign of just how much internal opposition Trump is facing over his decision to impose stringent tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the the Washington Post, is reporting that top White House economic advisor (and former Chief Vampire Squid Operating Officer) Gary Cohn threatened to resign over the administration’s heavy-handed tariffs on steel and aluminum.

This morning, on CNBC Larry Kudlow appeared to confirm said rumors when he commented that he had “been urging Gary [Cohn] to stay in recent days.”

To be sure, Trump’s trade war announcement, and the growing tension between Trump and Cohn should not surprise regular readers.  A week ago, when commenting on the unexpected promotion of Peter Navarro we said the trade hawk’s “sudden reincarnation within the Trump circle of trust likely indicates that the influence of Trump’s Wall Street-based globalist wing – Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin – is waning, and comes as the White House is nearing decisions on several high-profile trade matters (one almost smells an off the record phone call between Trump and Bannon here).”

We further simplified this tense relationship as follows:

 

Overnight, Politico added that Cohn was only staying in an attempt to prevent Trump from fully adopting the tariffs.

The trade decision signaled the marginalization of White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who had argued against tariffs for months but was outmaneuvered by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and trade adviser Peter Navarro. Two senior White House officials said Trump was not listening to Kelly and was making it known to others that he was not listening to Kelly. Those people said that Cohn has complained loudly to colleagues about the decision and privately said that he might leave — but had not made a final decision.

A number of senior administration officials believe one catalyst for the problems was the sudden departure of staff secretary Rob Porter, who left the White House last month amid allegations of abuse by his two ex-wives.

Porter was part of an exodus of advisers who had worked to try to keep Trump focused and away from his protectionist instincts. They had prevented him from ripping apart trade agreements and imposing major tariffs on other countries, even U.S. allies such as Canada and Germany.

It’s unclear what would happen if Trump proceeds with imposing the levies next week.

Cohn, the director of Trump’s National Economic Council who worked at Goldman Sachs before joining the administration, has lobbied aggressively against the protectionist proposals.

But in a sign that Cohn could soon find himself moving up the White House chain of command (his name has been floated a possible successor to Kelly, should the former Marine General ever find himself cast out of eh West Wing), WaPo reported that in the wake of the Rob Porter scandal, Trump has also stopped listening to Kelly (all the while another core Trump advisor, HR McMaster, may be on the way out oo).

Porter’s departure, WaPo said, might’ve inadvertently pushed Trump toward protectionism, because the former staff secretary would actively shield Trump from Peter Navarro and other economic nationalists.                                                                                                                                                                                 

Porter was part of an exodus of advisers who had worked to try to keep Trump focused and away from his protectionist instincts. They had prevented him from ripping apart trade agreements and imposing major tariffs on other countries, even U.S. allies such as Canada and Germany.

Porter tried to streamline decisions and corral divergent views into joint meetings, a challenge in a White House that has secret alliances and a flair for sensationalism. There was a weekly meeting on trade that included top advisers and was held to ensure there would not be surprises or rash decisions. Porter, these officials said, often presented the consensus views of the group or gave Trump recommendations. But Porter’s critics believed he was stonewalling and isolating people such as Navarro, whom Trump often wanted to hear from but did not have direct access to.

And that is when he got news of Navarro’s unexpected promotion.

Meanwhile, hopes that Trump will back down from his trade war path are fading fast: the president has already tripled down on his support for his protectionist policies in an early morning tweets.