Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, said on Tuesday that he would resign, becoming the latest in a series of high-profile departures from the Trump administration.
White House officials insisted that there was no single factor behind the departure of Cohn, who heads the National Economic Council. But his decision to leave came after he seemed poised to lose an internal struggle over Trump’s plan to impose large tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Cohn had warned last week that he might resign if Trump followed through with the tariffs, which he had lobbied against internally.
“Gary has been my chief economic adviser and did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again,” Trump said in a statement to The New York Times. “He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people.”
Cohn is expected to leave in the coming weeks. He will join a string of recent departures by senior White House officials, including Trump’s communications director and a powerful staff secretary.
Yet the departure of Cohn, a free-trade-oriented Democrat who fended off a number of nationalist-minded policies during his year in the Trump administration, could have a ripple effect on the president’s economic decisions.
It leaves Trump surrounded primarily by advisers with strong protectionist views who advocate the types of aggressive trade measures, like tariffs, that Cohn fought. Cohn was viewed by Republican lawmakers as the steady hand who could prevent Trump from engaging in activities that could trigger a trade war.
Even the mere threat, last August, that Cohn might leave sent the financial markets tumbling. On Tuesday, news of Cohn’s plan to resign rattled markets.
In a statement, Cohn said he had been pleased to work on “pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform.” White House officials said that Cohn was leaving on cordial terms with the president and that they planned to discuss policy even after his departure.