Cohn thought about Kelly’s advice. But he was still determined to resign. He asked Kelly for an appointment with Trump on August 21. But that was a tough day for Trump. The president was hunkered down, focused on the speech he was to give that night, in Arlington, Virginia, about the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan. Kelly told Cohn that his meeting with Trump would have to wait. Kelly offered Cohn the chance to see Trump, in the Oval Office, a day later, before Trump flew to Yuma, Arizona. Cohn accepted.

This was Cohn’s showdown meeting with Trump. It was a “long conversation,” the source said, where Trump did everything from yelling at Cohn that his staying with him in the White House was a matter of his “national duty” to trying to cajole him into sticking it out, using more of a light touch. Interestingly, Trump was clear to make a distinction with Cohn. His “duty” was to “the country” not to Trump personally. He refused to read or to take Cohn’s letter of resignation. A White House official disputed that Trump specifically asked Cohn to stay on as national economic adviser. “The president encouraged Gary to make his own decision,” the official said. (For his part, Cohn declined to be interviewed about what happened.