The Trump administration has been marked by a series of senior staff departures, including most recently the announcement of the imminent departure of the president’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn.
Other recent departures besides Cohn include White House staff secretary Rob Porter and White House communications director Hope Hicks.
On Thursday, Cohn participated in his last Cabinet meeting, during which the president offered a lumbering farewell to his chief economic adviser. Trump and Cohn have clashed recently over tariffs that the president announced an intent to impose on imported steel and aluminum, and the president mentioned this in his remarks.
He got in (at least) one last public jab at Cohn before he leaves D.C., beginning his remarks by commenting:
‘This is Gary Cohn’s last meeting in the Cabinet, and of the Cabinet. He’s been terrific. He may be a globalist, but I still like him. He’s seriously a globalist, there’s no question, but you know what, in his own way, he’s a nationalist because he loves our country.’
The president has carved out his nationalist vision of “America First” ever since the campaign season and has stuck to that ideal despite many challenges.
After his initial comments, the president then turned to Cohn, who was sitting behind him, and asked him if he loved the United States. After Cohn replied in the affirmative, the room broke into a round of applause.
The president then continued to address the imminent departure of his chief economic adviser, commenting:
‘He’s going to go out and make another couple of hundred million, and then he’s going to maybe come back… I have a feeling [he’ll] be back… I don’t know if I can put him in the same position though; he’s not quite as strong on those tariffs as we want.’
After those comments, the president turned to praising the tax reform plan he signed into law late last year, which Cohn had a hand in pushing.
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It’s ironic for Trump to quip about Cohn boosting his wealth before hypothetically coming back to the White House, since he and many of his advisers have faced serious questions about conflicts of interest posed by ties to the private business world.
Evidently Trump doesn’t take these questions as seriously as many others do.
The Thursday Cabinet meeting in which the president offered an awkward farewell to Cohn is far from the first time that a presidential Cabinet meeting has taken such a turn.
Last June, during his first full Cabinet meeting, each Cabinet member took turns offering praise to the president in what was for many a disturbingly dictatorial context.
In between that meeting and the Thursday one that was Cohn’s last, the president saw his first major legislative success in the form of the tax reform plan that Congress passed and he signed into law late last year.
Cohn was part of a viral incident in the lead up to that plan passing, asking a meeting of corporate execs how many of them would invest tax savings back into their businesses and getting a disturbingly dismal response.
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