- Jim Young/Reuters
Gary Cohn, the president’s top economic adviser, said the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to overhaul the US tax code convinced him to remain in his White House position after he considered resigning in the wake of Trump’s controversial response to a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month.
“Why am I here? I am here just for this reason,” Cohn said during a White House press briefing on Thursday afternoon. “Think about the opportunity that I’m involved in with President Trump and being able to rewrite the tax code. Something hasn’t been done in 31 years.”
He continued, “The amount of impact that we can have on the US economy and on US citizens and changing the forward outlook of the United States – this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I would never miss this,” he said.
When another reporter asked Cohn if he would stay on as director of the National Economic Council if tax reform is passed, he responded that he would.
“There are many more once-in-a-lifetime opportunities at the White House,” Cohn said, smiling.
Cohn, the former second-in-command at Goldman Sachs, was pressured to leave his position last month by former business associates and by his wife, according to a New York Times report.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Cohn said he came under “enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position.”
He said the president must do better “in consistently and unequivocally condemning” hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. He was reportedly “disgusted” and “appalled” by Trump’s response, in which the president laid equal blame for the violence on the white supremacist groups and the counterprotesters.
Cohn, who is Jewish, framed his decision to stay on as an act of defiance against the hate groups.
“As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job,” he said.
Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who leads the far-right website Breitbart News, told “60 Minutes” earlier this month that Cohn should have resigned for publicly criticizing the president.
“You can tell him, ‘Hey, maybe you can do it a better way,'” Bannon said. “But if you’re going to break, then resign. If you’re going to break with him, resign.”