The Internal Trade War in the Trump Administration

Gary Cohn, Director of White House Economic Council

President Donald J. Trump ran a campaign on the idea of putting the American worker first. Some inside the White House are undermining his agenda in the name of “free trade” in a way that will hurt the American economy and White House Economic Council Director Gary Cohn is leading the charge.

Cohn says the right things in public, but many worry that he is a force against punishing other nations who subsidize and put tariffs on American goods. At the White House press briefing on January 23, 2018, Cohn said “President Trump will reiterate that a prosperous America benefits the world.  When the United States grows, so does the world.  The President will continue to promote fair economic competition, and will make it clear that there cannot be free and open trade if countries are not held accountable to the rules.” Sounds great, yet many worry that Cohn does not have the same agenda in private.

If Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” is to be believed, Cohn is a disgruntled Trump Administration official. As reported by CNBC, “Wolff also writes at length about former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, who leads the president’s National Economic Council. Cohn has privately disagreed with Trump a number of times in the past year. But an April email that, Wolff writes, circulated around the White House ‘purporting to represent the views of Gary Cohn’ takes this to a new level. The email was reported to describe the White House as “an idiot surrounded by clowns.” He allegedly wrote that “Trump won’t read anything – not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing.” He also blasted his coworkers when he called Jared Kushner an “entitled baby” and former staffer Steve Bannon “an arrogant prick.” He expressed a distaste for his job but classified himself as “the only person there with a clue what he’s doing.” Now, you must take anything from Wolff as possibly creative writing, but, if true, this communication should lead to Cohn joining the ranks of ex-Trump Administration officials.

In a June 24, 2017, Vanity Fair piece Gary Cohn while president and C.O.O. was described as a Democrat. The piece reported that “Goldman paid Hillary Clinton $675,000 to appear at three non-taxing question-and-answer sessions during 2013, less than two years before she declared her candidacy for president. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Goldman employees and affiliated PACs donated less than $5,000 to Trump during the 2016 election cycle. By contrast, Clinton received more than $340,000 from them.” Cohn’s leadership at Goldman did not lead to any significant support for candidate Donald Trump.

Cohn’s disloyalty as part of the administration is unmatched by any other high ranking official. Cohn reportedly drafted a letter of resignation after the President spoke out after the Charlottesville extremist rally last year. The New York Times reported that he is pushing “Mr. Trump toward a more free-trade stance that avoids harsh steps toward China and other economic partners is paramount, these people said. Part of that, they added, is opposing tariffs on steel, aluminum and other goods that might damage relationships with American allies.” This does not sound like a loyal staffer implementing President Trump’s agenda.

Gary Cohn and his liberal elite allies in the White House are quietly derailing President Trump’s trade agenda. As the New York Times reported, it is clear that the Cohn faction is opposed to any decisive trade decisions that will help put Americans back to work. His agenda is one that favors the interests of other nations over average American citizens. He has been accused of fear mongering that the stock market would suffer from taking strong action on trade.

President Trump has been strong on recently issued tariffs on washing machines and solar panels coming from China and South Korea. That action runs contrary to Cohn’s known agenda. Now is the time for President Trump to stand up to his own staff who favor a global elite over American workers and the voters who launched Trump into the White House.

The best way to make America great again is to ignore elements of his own administration who are leading American trade policy in the wrong direction favored by liberal Democrats like Gary Cohn and Hillary Clinton.