Hurricane Harvey had to share the TV news cycle Friday with President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, who wrote a letter of resignation after Trump’s “fine people on both sides” statement about the violent neo-Nazi/white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
Cohn told the Financial Times in an interview published this morning that he drafted a letter of resignation after Trump’s third response to the violence in Charlottesville; he said he held off out of concern over market reaction to such a move.
The former president and COO of Goldman Sachs, now considered one of the most influential people in the Trump administration, was seen on TV networks around the world, standing by Trump’s side last week when POTUS hijacked his own news conference on infrastructure. Other cabinet members stood with Trump as he instead used the occasion to take back the previous day’s make-good statement, in which he had condemned the neo-Nazis and KKK on their rally that left one counter-protester dead when a white supremacist used his vehicle as a weapon, domestic terrorist-style. Among other gobsmacking remarks made during the Trump Tower presser, POTUS insisted “you also had people that were very fine people – on both sides.”
Cohn told FT he had been under enormous pressure to resign in the wake of that riveting TV moment.
“I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities,” Cohn said in the interview with Financial Times.
“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…Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK.”
Cohn said he had spoken to POTUS many times on the subject, and has told Trump he wants to see him more forcefully denounce white supremacists, adding, “I have not been bashful saying what I think.”
Taking questions Friday afternoon about Cohn’s interviews, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders agreed with Cohn’s telling of events, while declining to get into specifics.
“Gary has not held back saying how he feels about this situation. He has been very open and honest. So I don’t think that anyone was surprised by the comments,” Sanders insisted.
On the other hand, Sanders also claimed Trump had been “very outspoken” about condemning racism and anti-Semitism.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who also attended Sanders’ press briefing, insisted Cohn is fully committed to working with him on the administration’s tax reform. “Gary is committed to be here and I could not be more excited about that,” he said.