Key Trump staffer was on the brink of resigning after Charlottesville response
Posted August 25
National Economic Council director and key White House official Gary Cohn has offered a critical assessment of President Donald Trump's handling of the violence and protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, which he said caused him "distress."
In a candid interview with the Financial Times conducted Thursday, Cohn, a high-profile Jewish member of the administration and former Goldman Sachs executive, said the administration "can and must do better" to condemn hate groups.
In the President's initial response to the protests and accompanying violence, Trump condemned violence "on many sides," drawing immediate backlash. Cohn did not specifically mention Trump's statement, but he criticized the administration's response as a whole.
"Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities. As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting 'Jews will not replace us' to cause this Jew to leave his job," he said.
Cohn said that, despite pressure, he would not leave his White House role.
"I am reluctant to leave my post as director of the National Economic Council because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks," he told the newspaper.
Cohn indicated there is pressure among his colleagues to speak out on Charlottesville.
"This is a personal issue for each of us. We are all grappling with it. This takes time to grapple with," he said.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin issued a statement earlier this week condemning the actions of hate groups and voicing support for the President.
Cohn noted that he has had "numerous" conversations with the President on the topic.
"I have not been bashful saying what I think," he said, although he did not specify the nature of Trump's reaction.