In the wake of the Charlottesville attacks that left one woman dead, Donald Trump made what many saw as his first very public appeal to extremist groups by claiming that there were "good people on both sides" of the riot.
Trump's director of the White House Economic Council, Gary Cohn, was at work crafting the GOP tax plan that would deliver significant cuts to corporations and the uber-rich. Despite Republican promises, after two years it failed to pay for itself, NPR pointed out in 2019. Meanwhile, Cohn was ready to walk away from the Trump administration due to the president's Charlottesville remarks.
At the time, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman reported that Cohn drafted a resignation letter and was set to bail before the tax plan was finalized. But in her new book, she described a much more contentious situation.
Trump had just finished his press conference, which was celebrated by then-personal aide John McEntee, "who pumped his fist in the air. 'That kicked ass!' he said. 'That was awesome!'"
But Cohn was done supporting someone he felt stood with neo-Nazis.
"He went to Bedminster that weekend with a resignation letter in hand, although he did not give it to Trump, whom he found in the clubhouse, piling a plate high with food," writes Haberman. "Cohn asked if Trump had seen video of the Charlottesville march."
"You have to understand that there’s no good people on that side," Cohn said.
"No, no, no, that’s not what happened," Haberman cites Trump, claiming he had been taken out of context.
"Trump told Cohn to think about it and they would talk at the beginning of the week. Ivanka Trump reached out to Cohn privately, telling him that her father wasn’t a racist and echoing his claim that he’d been taken out of context. On Monday, Trump returned to work at the White House, and Cohn went to the Oval Office with his resignation letter," Haberman continues in the 600-plus page book. "With Pence and Kelly looking on, along with his daughter, Trump appealed to Cohn not to quit his job over the issue."
"I’ve got one major legislative agenda," Haberman quotes Trump. "Without you, I’m not going to get tax reform."
She then describes what she calls "the hammer."
“If you leave, you’re committing treason," Trump claimed.
Trump, who plainly did not want to lose his top economic adviser, told Cohn he should feel free to publicly voice his disagreement, and encouraged him to go to the briefing-room podium and say whatever he needed to."
"You’ll do the right thing," Haberman writes that Vice President Mike Pence said, while putting an arm around Cohn like some kind of mafia movie.
"Cohn said he would complete his efforts to pass a tax bill, which had been his passion throughout the year, and not stay much longer," the book continues. "'But you should assume I’m done,' Cohn said. He still had his resignation letter in hand, undelivered and unaccepted. As Cohn left the Oval Office, Kelly whispered to him, 'If I were you I’d have shoved that paper up his f*cking ass.'"
Haberman's book, "Confidence Man" is available on sale Tuesday and Raw Story has full coverage here.
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