White House Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn has spent the better part of the past year attacking his boss Donald Trump in public and private, while repeatedly vowing to resign. Today, Cohn finally officially pulled the trigger. He’s gone from the White House, and Trump is already tweeting about potential replacements. So why did Cohn finally resign today? The issue that pushed him over the edge is a lesson about the lines Trump can and can’t get away with crossing.
We’ve long known that Gary Cohn thinks Trump is a racist, because he’s publicly told us so. It appears Cohn also thinks Trump is an idiot, because he said so to Michael Wolff. And Cohn surely knows as well as the rest of us that Trump plotted with Russia to steal the election. None of that was enough to push him out the door. But when Trump began a trade war this week, that was when Cohn finally bolted. It doesn’t speak much for Cohn’s character, but it does tell us something about where this is all headed.
Cohn is a Wall Street guy. He’s never liked Trump, and he’s never appeared to agree with Trump on social issues or foreign policy. But as long as Cohn saw a chance to get in there and steer Trump toward helping out corporations and the wealthy at the expense of the working class, he was willing to hold his nose. Then Trump finally did something that might cost Cohn and his ilk some money, and Cohn drew the line. So did normally spineless Paul Ryan, who’s suddenly standing firm against Trump over tariffs.
When it comes to Gary Cohn, Paul Ryan, and the billionaires who run the Republican Party, they don’t care that Donald Trump is a racist traitor. They may not like it, but they’re willing to live with it. However, as soon as Trump screws with their money, they turn against him in a heartbeat. If Trump keeps playing games with tariffs and creating these kinds of trade problems, the billionaire class could move to try to finish Trump off. It’s the one red line they care about.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report