Been a looooong time coming. He almost resigned twice before. Once was after Charlottesville, when he took exception to Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” musings and made the mistake of making his unhappiness known to the media, leading Trump to cold-shoulder him. The second time was when he was passed over for Fed chair, a position he reportedly had his heart set on.
He stuck around anyway after his nationalist nemesis, Steve Bannon, departed. Probably he thought he could keep POTUS on track towards “globalist” economic policy, which he did. For awhile. His name was kicked around sporadically as a potential successor to John Kelly as chief of staff too, which would have made him among the most powerful people in the world.
But then Trump went off the trails with his dopey steel tariffs. And now Cohn is bailing out.
In a statement, Mr. 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 Mr. Cohn was leaving on cordial terms with the president and that they planned to continue discussing policy even after his departure.
Yet the departure of Mr. 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 and on the financial sector.
Even the mere threat, last August, that Mr. Cohn might leave sent the financial markets tumbling.
Yeah, conveniently the Times’s scoop on Cohn’s departure didn’t break until after Wall Street had closed for business this afternoon. Keep an eye on those futures overnight!
Axios reported two days ago on a fateful meeting over tariffs in the Oval Office back in January among all the major players — Trump, Kelly, nationalists Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross, and “globalists” Cohn and Rob Porter. As Axios tells it, not only did Cohn end up losing the battle over tariffs, he also lost the battle over how Trump would implement them when he eventually did:
Cohn tried to argue that these tariffs would ruin Trump’s record-setting stock market streak and wipe away benefits of tax reform. But Trump kept saying Cohn was a “globalist” while he himself was an economic nationalist…
Porter and Cohn were determined to prevent Trump from using an arcane section of trade law — Section 232 — to invoke a national security crisis to impose steel and aluminum tariffs.
They thought they’d got Trump to agree to a sequence: first impose tariffs on solar panels and washing machines (already done); then impose tariffs on hundreds of Chinese products to punish China for stealing American intellectual property (this action was imminent); then only impose the steel and aluminum tariffs after that (though in their minds hopefully Trump would be satisfied after whacking China so hard and wouldn’t feel the need to go further.)
Trump is in fact using the national security loophole in Section 232 to impose his tariffs, a terrible precedent insofar as it invites other countries to void their own trade agreements as they see fit on the same grounds. With Porter and Cohn now gone and Ross and Navarro in ascendance, nothing’s stopping Trump from going full metal nationalist and tariff-happy on everything. The GOP base will love it, no doubt, because every fart Trump cuts smells like roses to them, but the rest of the country will hold its nose:
No comment needed. pic.twitter.com/iSXW940vpU
— Scott Lincicome (@scottlincicome) March 6, 2018
Personnel is hugely important in this White House to shaping policy by controlling the information flow to Trump’s desk. The information he’ll be getting going forward is pure nationalist protectionism. Good luck to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell on selling those tax cuts this fall as the price of everyday goods begins to climb. Maybe this’ll light a fire under their asses to start thinking outside the box legislatively. And congrats to John Kelly, whose hold on his own job seems a bit more secure today than it was yesterday. With Cohn, a top contender to replace him, now out of the way the search for a successor as chief seems even more challenging for POTUS.
Oh, and speaking of personnel shaping policy:
News: President Trump met with John Bolton in the Oval Office today.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) March 6, 2018
Tariffs up the wazoo *and* war with North Korea when Bolton replaces McMaster as NSA? Season two of “The Apprentice: White House” is shaping up to be even more action-packed than season one.
Update: Ah, the final indignity.
Axios reports Trump cancelled the Thursday meeting Cohn had arranged/was arranging with leaders from big businesses opposed to the tariffs. https://t.co/2qo6cPzXIb
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) March 6, 2018
Update: And here we go.
BREAKING: U.S. Is Said to Consider Broad Curbs On China Imports, Takeovers
— David Ingles (@DavidInglesTV) March 6, 2018