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White House Not Focused on Market Reaction as Cohn Poised to Leave West Wing

White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn speaks to reporters at the White House on Jan. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON — The Dow opened down 289 points today, with slacks at the S&P and Nasdaq as well, on news that White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn will be leaving the administration.

Cohn’s chair was empty at a White House event Tuesday; the former Goldman Sachs executive reportedly tried to stop President Trump from moving forward with his plan to slap a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

Cohn reportedly weighed resigning in August after Trump blamed “both sides” for the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., at which one of the white nationalists plowed his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one. Trump said after the incident that were some “very fine people” among the white supremacist demonstrators.

“I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position,” Cohn told the Financial Times afterward.

“As a Jewish-American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job. I feel deep empathy for all who have been targeted by these hate groups. We must all unite together against them,” he said.

Reacting to Tuesday’s news that Cohn would be leaving the White House, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said in a statement that “as a right-wing conservative and founding member of the Freedom Caucus, I never expected that the co-worker I would work closest, and best, with at the White House would a ‘globalist.'”

“Gary Cohn is one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with,” Mulvaney added. “Having the chance to collaborate with him will remain one of the highlights of my career in public service.”

Trump simply tweeted, “Will be making a decision soon on the appointment of new Chief Economic Advisor. Many people wanting the job – will choose wisely!”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters today it “will happen when the president is ready to make that announcement — I’m certainly not going to get ahead of him and try do that right this second.”

Asked if CNBC host Lawrence Kudlow was on the list, Sanders replied, “The president’s got a number of people that could potentially fill that role. What I can assure you obviously is he’s going to make a good pick that can help him continue to further building a strong economy and continue creating jobs and continue focusing on long-term economic success.”

Kudlow, who is also opposed to blanket tariffs as hurting allies and hurting the U.S. economy, said Tuesday that Cohn’s resignation was a “turn for the worse” in trade.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say the cause for freer trade is over,” Kudlow said. “But we’ll see who is appointed. I personally regret this [resignation] very much.”

Sanders said the White House is still gunning for a tariff announcement at the end of this week as “it’s a lengthy process finalizing the details.”

On the market reaction, she said, “Look as we’ve said many times before, we’re very focused on long-term economic success. The economy is still infinitely stronger today than when the president first came in and we’re going to continue building on that. We’ve done a lot of incredible things when it comes to building the economy and creating jobs … and we’re going to keep focusing on that.”

Sanders denied that the latest departure signals a West Wing in turmoil. “If you have a place in chaos, you’re not able to function and make big things happen, and we certainly have the ability and continue to do that,” she said.