WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, is planning to resign in the wake of the president’s announcement to impose stiff tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
Cohn’s resignation as director of the National Economic Council, confirmed by the White House on Tuesday, is the culmination of a fierce battle inside the White House from the earliest days of Trump’s presidency.
Cohn and other so-called globalists in the administration sought to restrain Trump from listening to officials who urged the president to carry out his campaign promises to take aggressive actions to upend the status quo on trade.
In recent days, a resurgence of Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro, who shares Trump’s hard-line positions particularly related to China, was a telltale sign that the president had decided to side with the nationalist wing in his administration.
Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, was tapped by Trump early on for his Wall Street smarts and connections to the financial world. And in the first year of Trump’s presidency, Cohn was able to exert his influence, for example, blocking a proposal to terminate talks with the Chinese on an investment treaty before it landed on Trump’s desk.
But as the months wore on, Cohn’s influence waned as Trump grew impatient about a lack of hard actions on trade. Cohn argued that Trump’s plans for 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminum risked taking the country to a trade war, but his resignation suggests that he had failed to dissuade the president.