Former White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn said in a new interview that he’s “concerned” that nobody is left in the White House with the “personality” to push back against President Trump on certain issues.
“I am concerned that the atmosphere in the White House is no longer conducive, or no one has the personality to stand up to tell the president what he doesn’t want to hear,” Cohn, who served as the director of the National Economic Council during Trump’s first year in office, said on “The Axe Files,” a podcast hosed by CNN political commentator David Axelrod.
Cohn made the comments after describing his relationship with Trump as “brutally honest.” He said that many of Trump’s key advisers during his first year in the White House had a similar relationship, arguing that it was a group “that was willing to tell the president what he needed to know whether he wanted to hear it or not.”
“None of us are there anymore,” Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive, said.
Axelrod noted that Cohn’s remarks echoed sentiments former White House chief of staff John Kelly made in October while discussing operations at the White House.
Kelly, who left the administration at the end of last year, said that he warned Trump against hiring a “yes man” to succeed him, stating that it could lead to impeachment.
“I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that. Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached,” Kelly recalled. “It pains me to see what’s going on because I believe if I was still there or someone like me was there, he would not be kind of, all over the place.”
The House launched an impeachment inquiry in late September into Trump’s dealings with the Ukraine. The inquiry is slated to begin its next phase this week with a hearing led by the House Judiciary Committee.
Cohn exited the White House in April 2018 after Trump imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. His tenure was marked by disputes with the Trump and some of his other advisers over trade policies.
Cohn told BBC in September that Trump’s trade wars had effectively canceled the 2017 corporate tax cut and hindered U.S. manufacturers’ opportunities for expansion.
In his interview with Axelrod, Cohn said that he didn’t shy away from presenting his views to Trump.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant. But my view was, ‘I am here to be an adviser to the president.’ I advise some of the most important companies in the world,” he said. “I made my reputation and brand in life by telling them the truth. I wasn’t going to treat the president of the United States any differently. If he wanted to fire me, he could fire me.”