President Trump’s top economic adviser resigned Tuesday, joining a growing list of departures from a White House some describe as wracked by chaos and low morale.
The White House said Gary Cohn was not pressured to leave, and Mr. Cohn thanked the president for the opportunity to overhaul the nation’s tax code.
“It has been an honor to serve my country and enact pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform,” Mr. Cohn said in a statement.
Just hours before Mr. Cohn resigned, Mr. Trump said that despite recent turnover the West Wing has “tremendous spirit.”
He also acknowledged it’s a tough place to work because he enjoys pitting staffers against each other to get the best advice.
“I like conflict,” the president said at a White House news conference. “It’s tough. I like having two people with different points of view. I like watching it, I like seeing it, and I think it’s the best way to go. I certainly have that, and then I make a decision.”
Mr. Cohn, who headed the president’s National Economic Council, was a driving force behind the tax cut law but he clashed with Mr. Trump over plans to slap big tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Mr. Cohn vehemently opposed the move, as do many free-trade conservatives in Mr. Trump’s Republican Party.
Mr. Trump said that Mr. Cohn was a “rare talent” and thanked him for his service to the American people.
“Gary has been my chief economic advisor and did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again,” the president said in a statement.
White House officials said Mr. Cohn had been discussing his possible departure with the president for weeks. His final day has not been set, but is expected in the next few weeks.
Mr. Cohn’s exit came a week after trusted Communications Director Hope Hicks resigned, part of a relatively high 33 percent turnover rate in the past 14 months in the West Wing.
There are also reports that Mr. Trump wants to move out National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and of friction between Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and senior adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The president wouldn’t answer a question about whether he intends to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom he has criticized repeatedly. But he said he expects more staff changes, and he welcomes the turnover.
“There will be people — I’m not going to be specific — but there will be people that change,” Mr. Trump said. “They always change. Sometimes they want to go out and do something else. But they all want to be in the White House. I have a choice of anybody. I could take any position in the White House, and I’ll have a choice of the ten top people having to do with that position. And they love this White House because we have energy like rarely before.”
Among the staff departures last year were chief strategist Steve Bannon, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, press secretary Sean Spicer, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and short-lived communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
The president lashed out at reports that he’s having trouble replacing staffers who leave, because of the White House’s reputation for a grueling work environment with long hours and turmoil.
“Believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House,” Mr. Trump said. “They all want a piece of that Oval Office. They want a piece of the West Wing. Not only terms of it looks great on their resume, it’s just a great place to work.”
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