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Senator: Gary Cohn Faked a Bad Connection to Get Trump Off the Phone

Director of the National Economic Council and chief economic advisor to President Trump Gary Cohn smiles in the press briefing room at the White House on Sept. 28, 2017. (Rex Features via AP Images)

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said this morning that Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn once faked a bad connection to get off the line with President Trump.

Carper was asked on CNN about a report that, while engaged in a tax reform conversation with White House advisers, Trump called in from his Asia trip and the senator eventually told Cohn, “We’re not going to have a real conversation here. Can you just tell the president he’s brilliant and say we’re losing the connection and hang up?”

“Seriously, and he did,” Carper said this morning. “And we’d been having about a half an hour conversation with Gary, with [White House Legislative Director] Marc Short and with [presidential tax policy aide] Sharira Knight, the three people from the administration. We had a great conversation. They’re asking questions about more moderate Democrats and trying to see if there’s some kind of middle ground on tax reform.”

Cohn eventually got up and took a call on his cell phone, the senator said, “comes back into the room, he says, we have somebody calling in from Asia, and it was the president… nice of him to do that. Fifteen minutes later, the president is still talking.”

“And we — I said to Gary, it was a room where we’re all sitting around this big square table, and I said, Gary, why don’t you do this? Why don’t you just take the phone from, you know, your cell phone back and you say, Mr. President, you’re brilliant. And — but we’re losing contact, and I think we’re going to lose you now, so good-bye,” Carper continued. “And that’s what he did and he hung up. And we went back to having the kind of conversation that we needed to, where they ask a question, looking for consensus, looking for common ground, and we — I think we’ve identified a little bit.”

Asked if Cohn faked a bad connection to ditch Trump, Carper confirmed, “I don’t want to throw him under the bus, but yes.”

“He was interested in a greater good,” the senator added. “He wanted to make sure he could have the kind of conversation, and that’s what we need to do.”

Carper said “there are a couple of things I think we can agree with, Democrats and Republicans” on tax reform.

“The idea of doubling the standard deduction. That will actually help a lot of people who don’t have to file — they would have to file, but they wouldn’t have to itemize their taxes,” he said. “I think that’s a good idea we can agree on. I think the effective tax rate for corporations in this country is between 15 percent and say, 20 percent. A number of companies do pay 35 percent. That’s not very competitive with the rest of the world. So to the extent that we can bring — ratchet down a bit is good.”

“What is not good is this,” Carper added. “We’re looking at essentially tax cuts that help more wealthy people than not help the corporations, bigger corporations, than middle-sized corporations. And there’s a fear that a lot of people have that corporations, what they’ll do if they have more money to spend, they won’t necessarily invest it in plant and equipment, in their workers. They’ll actually use it for stock buybacks and drive up the stock and the value of the companies and help actually boost compensation for very senior members of the company.”