Trump omits chief economic adviser Cohn from speech in another indicator of more White House changes

Gary Cohn, White House chief economic advisor, walks from Marine One as he returns to the The White House in Washington, DC.
Gary Cohn, White House chief economic advisor, walks from Marine One as he returns to the The White House in Washington, DC.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) - US President Donald Trump singled out several top advisers who accompanied him to a speech about overhauling the tax code on Wednesday (Aug 30), but not the man leading the administration's effort, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn.

Mr Cohn was among the officials who travelled with Mr Trump to Missouri, including senior adviser Ivanka Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Small Business Administration chief Linda McMahon. Mr Trump gave each of those five a shout-out.

He also named members of Congress in attendance."Anybody I forgot?" Mr Trump said.

There has been friction between Mr Trump and Mr Cohn in recent days. Mr Cohn, who is Jewish, told the Financial Times in an interview published five days ago that he nearly resigned earlier this month over Mr Trump's comments on the violence in Charlottesville and the president's claim that "very fine people" protested along with neo-Nazis.

Mr Cohn also promised the president a White House tax Bill that never materialized. Instead, Congress is doing the heavy lifting on crafting a tax overhaul, and the administration won't put one forward.

That will have ramifications if the Hill's legislation departs from the principles Mr Trump outlined in his Missouri speech, including benefits for the middle class.

White House spokeswoman Natalie Strom said the president wasn't trying to snub Cohn.

"This is a little silly," Ms Strom said. "Staff is typically not called out in prepared remarks, only Cabinet members."

She pointed out Mr Trump didn't recognise Mr Cohn by name at an Aug 15 news conference in which the president made controversial remarks on the Virginia violence, even though Mr Cohn was standing beside Mr Trump. He recognised Mr Mnuchin by name in that instance, Ms Strom said.

But Mr Trump has invokedMr Cohn at other past events, including a June rally in Iowa.

Financial markets swooned on Aug17 when concern spread that Mr Cohn would quit over Trump's stance on the Charlottesville protest. The decline reversed after a White House official told news organisations Mr Cohn wouldn't resign.

Many Wall Street analysts see Mr Cohn as the most powerful advocate of economic pragmatism within the administration and a bulwark against populists on the Trump team.

Mr Trump's other principles for a tax overhaul, he said in his speech, include: a tax code simple enough that most Americans can file a return on one page; a lower corporate income tax rate and a provision to allow companies to bring overseas profits back to the US at a lower rate.