Today, in an interview with the Financial Times, Gary Cohn, chair of the president’s National Economic Council, broke his silence about Trump’s response to the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville.
“I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position,” he told the paper. “As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post as director of the National Economic Council because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks. Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities. As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job.”
Separately, the New York Times reported that in the wake of Trump’s remarks, Cohn had drafted a resignation letter and that “[i]n the days after the Charlottesville violence, Mr. Cohn’s family—including his wife—told him he needed to think seriously about departing.” Axios subsequently reported that “a source close to Trump predicts he will explode when he reads the Cohn interview” with the Financial Times, which the president will perceive as Cohn “siding with the fake news.”
But Cohn’s refusal to resign, even as he acknowledged his boss’s disquieting conduct, drew strong criticism from both the left and the alt-right. New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait offered a withering assessment entitled, “Gary Cohn Defies Nazis By Supporting Their Favorite President.” Cohn, argued Chait “has managed to present his decision to stand behind Trump as an act of defiance against the group Trump praised. As the Talmud says, whoever saves a corporate tax cut, it is as if he saved the entire world.”
Meanwhile, Jason Kessler, the white nationalist who organized the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, took to Twitter to hurl anti-Semitic abuse at Cohn:
Gary Cohn is a Grade-A, Goldman Sachs swamp monster & representative of disproportionate Jewish influence Charlottesville rally called out https://t.co/tWckGiOFlr
— Jason Kessler (@TheMadDimension) August 25, 2017
Like so many in Trump’s world, it appears Cohn is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.