Trump attacks ex-economic adviser Gary Cohn: "I could tell stories about him"

Gary Cohn left the Trump administration due to disgust with the president's rhetoric on white nationalism and trade

By Matthew Rozsa

Published October 11, 2018 2:12PM (EDT)

Donald Trump, Gary Cohn (AP/Michael Sohn)
Donald Trump, Gary Cohn (AP/Michael Sohn)

President Donald Trump implied that he could embarrass his former top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, during an interview with "Fox & Friends" on Thursday.

"I was very good to both of them," Trump told "Fox & Friends" hosts Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy when they speculated that Cohn, Trump's former Director of the National Economic Council, and former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter may have been sources for Bob Woodward's book about Trump's presidency. "You know, I was very good to both of them. And it could have been. And a lot of people have said that. Gary Cohn and I could tell stories about him like you wouldn't believe. Gary Cohn could have been... Although he issued a statement that, you know, gee he has great respect of the administration et cetera et cetera. But what does that mean? It could very well have been."

The president added, "Don't forget Gary Cohn never thought we could ever make this deal with Mexico and never thought in a million years we could make the deal with Canada. He thought that... One of the reasons he left, he never thought we could make those deals. Not only did we make those deals, we made phenomenal deals. All you have to do is ask Canada. How happy are they?"

Among other juicy details in the book, Woodward chronicles Cohn referring to the president as "a professional liar." Cohn also reportedly stole a letter from the president's desk that would have ended the United States-Korea Free Trade agreement out of concern that Trump's policy would endanger American national security. The former Goldman Sachs executive was also outspoken in his criticism of the president for equating white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville with the antifascists responding against them. Cohn is Jewish and his pride in his Jewish heritage was reportedly a factor in his outrage. In an interview with the Financial Times, Cohn famously said that "citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK."

In January, Trump reacted to rumors that a dissatisfied Cohn was thinking of departing by pulling him on stage during a news conference and saying, "Gary, hopefully, will be staying for a long time. Now, if he leaves, I’m going to say: ‘I’m very happy that he left.’ Okay? All right?"

Cohn's dissatisfaction with Trump's attitude on civil rights issues, combined with his disagreements with the White House on trade policy, ultimately contributed to his decision to step down as Director of the National Economic Council.

The president has a history of claiming that he can destroy people who he deems to be his political adversaries, such as threatening to "spill the beans" about Heidi Cruz during his heated Republican primary campaign against her husband, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in the 2016 presidential election.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Ainsley Earhardt Brian Kilmeade Donald Trump "fox & Friends" Gary Cohn Rob Porter Steve Doocy