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Gary Cohn to Resign as Trump’s Top Economic Adviser

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Gary Cohn to quit as Trump’s top economic adviser” was written by Dominic Rushe in New York and David Smith and Lauren Gambino in Washington, for The Guardian on Tuesday 6th March 2018 22.41 UTC

Gary Cohn, Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, has quit, the latest in a series of high-profile departures from the Trump administration.

Cohn, who heads the National Economic Council, had reportedly threatened to leave after Trump’s incendiary comments following the deadly race riot in Charlottesville, Virginia.

But his decision to quit on Tuesday night comes after Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, a move he and the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, have reportedly vehemently opposed.

His departure saw Wall Street stock futures dip sharply at the prospect of the pro-free trade adviser leaving the way clear for Trump to push through his controversial tariff plan. The dollar also dropped 0.6% against the yen to 105.48 yen.

Shares in Asia Pacific dipped at the opening of trade on Wednesday. In Japan, where the steel industry could be badly hit by the tariffs, the Nikkei was off 0.7% and in Sydney the ASX200 was down 0.5%.

In a statement given to the New York Times, which first broke the story, Trump said: “Gary has been my chief economic adviser and did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again. He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people.”

Later on Tuesday, the president tweeted his intention to appoint a replacement soon, adding: “Many people wanting the job – will choose wisely!”

Cohn said in a statement issued by the White House that it had 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”.

Cohn’s departure represents another blow to the administration, which has suffered several high-profile resignations since the election. Hope Hicks, Trump’s close aide and communications director, quit last week, and other senior figures to have left include Trump’s former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

But the resignation of Cohn, a former chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs, could be the most consequential. It comes after global markets were roiled by Trump’s decision to press on with plans to impose tariffs on trading allies, which investors fear could spark an international trade war.

Reports that Cohn, a Democrat, might depart after Charlottesville last August also caused stock markets to wobble.

Cohn had once been a Trump favourite, with the president introducing him as a former Goldman banker who had given up hundreds of millions of dollars to join the West Wing.

He was once tipped to be the next head of the Federal Reserve. But he clashed frequently with Trump’s hardline supporters and, according to Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, called Trump “dumb as shit”.

Cohn’s departure comes as Trump is clashing with other top Republicans including the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who have publicly urged the White House to abandon the tariffs proposal as officials in Europe, China and Canada threatened retaliation.

Trump consistently promised to be tough on trade during his election campaign, and Cohn was regarded by fans and foes as a moderating voice.

But since the announcement last week, Trump has doubled down on his intention to press ahead with the tariffs. He said trade wars were “good and easy to win”.

On Tuesday, at a press conference with Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven, Trump said: “The United States has been taken advantage of by other countries, both friendly and not so friendly, for many, many decades, and we have a trade deficit of $800bn per year, and that’s not going to happen with me.”

He said: “The European Union has been particularly tough on the United States. They make it almost impossible to do business with them, and yet they send their cars and everything else back into the United States. They can do whatever they like but if they do that, then we put a big tax of 25% on their cars and believe me, they won’t be doing it very long.”

Trump went on: “The European Union has not treated us well and it’s been a very, very unfair trade situation. One of the reasons I was elected is I’m protecting our workers, I’m protecting our companies, and I’m not going to let that happen.”

Trump has previously criticised carmakers in Europe, especially in Germany, and on Saturday he warned via Twitter that he would slap a tax on them if the EU retaliated against the proposed 25% steel and 10% aluminium tariffs.

A ‘loving’ trade war

At the White House, Trump did offer possible concessions to other allies. But he said: “When we’re behind on every single country, trade wars aren’t so bad. When we’re down by $30bn, $40bn, $60bn, $100bn, the trade war hurts them, doesn’t hurt us. So we’ll see what happens. We’re going to straighten it out and we’ll do it in a very loving way – it’ll be a loving, loving way. They’ll like us better and they will respect us much more.”

Trump spoke shortly after McConnell joined Ryan in announcing his opposition to Trump’s tariff proposal. McConnell warned that the move could trigger a trade war and damage a growing US economy.

“There is a lot of concern among Republican senators that this could sort of metastasize into a larger trade war,” McConnell said.

The criticism is a rare departure for the Republican leaders, who worked with Trump to pass a $1.5tn tax cut last year.

Republicans doubt Trump is wed to any single plan and are hopeful he can be persuaded to accept a more modest and narrower proposal. But Cohn’s departure may change that calculus.

News of Cohn’s resignation came shortly after Trump claimed that, despite recent turmoil, morale on his team was high. He said: “The White House has tremendous energy, it has tremendous spirit.”

He added: “It is a great place to be working. Many, many people want every single job. Believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office, they all want a piece of the West Wing.

“It’s tough. I like conflict, I like having two people with different points of view, and I certainly have that. And then I make a decision. But I like watching it, I like seeing it, and I think it’s the best way to go.”

He said: “So many people want to come in. I have a choice of anybody. I could take any position in the White House and I’ll have a choice of the 10 top people having to do with that position – everybody wants to be there.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died

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Buckingham Palace has announced that The Duke of Edinburgh has died.

Philip Mountbatten, the rakish naval officer who captured the heart of a young Elizabeth Windsor and became the lifelong consort to the British queen, has died aged 99.

The death ends the longest marriage of a reigning monarch in British history, an enduring alliance that outlasted the Cold War, war and peace in Northern Ireland and the painful divorces of three of their four children.

Reacting to the death, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said;

“Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the UK, across the Commonwealth & around the world.

He was the longest serving consort in history & one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in WW2.”

Prince Philip never held the official title of Prince Consort, but he was Queen Elizabeth II’s closest confidant, most reliable political advisor and the undisputed master of the royal household for more than six decades.

Philip was known equally as a curmudgeon and a charmer who could quickly put nervous guests at ease with an easy one­liner.

The Queen, on the event of their golden wedding anniversary in 1997, said of her husband: “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.”

The Duke is survived by his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, and his children Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.

While Elizabeth presided over affairs of state, Philip championed dozens of charities, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which has promoted self­reliance, physical development and other personal accomplishment for more than 6 million youths all over the world.

(more…)
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Biden Expected To Repeal Military Trans Ban Tomorrow

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The Biden administration is expected to repeal the ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military, multiple people informed of the decision told CBS News. The announcement is expected as soon as Monday, one senior Defense official and four outside advocates of repealing the ban told CBS News.

The senior Defense official told CBS News the repeal will be through executive order signed by President Joe Biden. The announcement is expected to take place at a ceremony with newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will order the Pentagon to go back to the policy enacted in 2016 by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly.

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The new order will direct the branches of the military to outline an implementation plan. 

The ban was announced by former President Trump via a tweet in July 2017. The ban took effect in April 2019 and barred transgender Americans from enlisting in the military.

In 2014, it was estimated there were around 15,500 transgender military members serving, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

Biden frequently repeated on the campaign trail his promise to repeal the ban.

Austin said at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he planned to repeal the ban.

“I support the president’s plan or plan to overturn the ban,” Austin said on Tuesday when asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “I truly believe, Senator, that as I said in my opening statement, that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve. And, you can expect that I will support that throughout.”

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Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President

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(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.

Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.

Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.

It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.

Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.

Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.

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