In the past several days, several members of President Donald J. Trump’s inner circle have publicly disparaged him—and the president has done nothing public to stop them.
First, National Economic Council (NEC) director Gary Cohn—the former number two banker at Goldman Sachs and a top Democrat who joined the Trump administration after the president’s election—bashed the president in an on-record interview with the Financial Times.
“I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position,” Cohn said when asked by the Financial Times about his thoughts on the president’s response to the incidents in Charlottesville. “As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post as director of the National Economic Council because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks. Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities. 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.”
The New York Times also reported that Cohn drafted a resignation letter, and came under enormous pressure from his own family including his wife to resign, but has remained in the White House.
“Mr. Cohn, who is Jewish, seriously considered resigning and even drafted a letter of resignation, according to two people familiar with the draft,” the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman and Kate Kelly wrote on Friday, adding later in the piece details about Cohn’s plans for potential resignation.
“In the days after the Charlottesville violence, Mr. Cohn’s family — including his wife — told him he needed to think seriously about departing, according to two people briefed on the discussions,” Haberman and Kelly wrote. “Several of his friends in the business community also urged him to step away from the administration. Mr. Cohn is a former executive at Goldman Sachs. Mr. Cohn came close to resigning, according to one of the people briefed on the discussions. He met with Mr. Trump privately at the president’s golf club in New Jersey last Friday, scrapping his plans to spend the evening at his second home in the Hamptons.”
The Washington Post added in its own reporting that Cohn was overheard in a Long Island restaurant trashing President Trump.
“On Wednesday evening, Cohn complained loudly about Trump while dining with friends at a Long Island restaurant called the Frisky Oyster,” the Washington Post’s Damien Paletta and Philip Rucker reported on Friday. “Cohn explained to his companions — in a loud voice overheard by others — that he had to be careful not to give Trump too much lead time about some new ideas because the president could disclose the information prematurely and upend the planning process, according to a person familiar with the dinner.”
Now, after Cohn’s threats to resign over his disagreements with the president, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared on Fox News Sunday this weekend to also disparage the president. Tillerson declined to say that the president supports American values, saying that the State Department does but that “the president speaks for himself.”
In addition, Tillerson defended globalists arguing that he does not “see any division” between those who support globalization and those who support the “America First” agenda that the president campaigned on.
“I think it’s a question of tactics and how you achieve those objectives,” Tillerson told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “I think the president has been clear in his speech in Afghanistan that we are not undertaking nation-building. We will be shifting our diplomatic and aid in development as well to coincide with the present fear that the Afghan government and that Afghan people must own their form of government and they must come to reconciliation with all ethnic groups including the Taliban. A peaceful country who does not support terrorism does not provide safe havens are terrorist and does not align itself with any terrorist organizations or countries that do. That’s what winning looks like.”
He also said that Dr. Sebastian Gorka’s criticism of the Afghanistan speech’s lack of any mention of “radical Islam” or “radical Islamic terrorism”—a sharp departure from the campaign vision of President Trump—is “completely wrong.”
“It shows a lack of understanding of the president’s broader policy when it comes to protecting Americans at home and abroad from all acts of terrorism,” Tillerson said of Gorka’s criticism. “Terrorism, as we’ve said, it manifests itself in many types of organization. The president has charged us to develop policies and tactics most diplomatically and militarily to attack terrorism in as many forms wherever it exists in the world and wherever it might present a threat to the homeland or to Americans anywhere. This means that we have to develop techniques that are global in nature. All we want is to ensure that terrorists do not have the capability to organize and carry out attacks.”
Gorka resigned from the White House on Friday in part due to the failures on the Afghanistan speech and vision from the president, which were pushed in large part thanks to National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
Together with Cohn, McMaster, and Tillerson, others in the White House have banded together to form the “West Wing Democrats.” They include the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, her husband Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, Deputy National Security adviser Dina Habib Powell—who worked with Cohn at Goldman Sachs—as well as new chief of staff John Kelly. Powell claims to be a Republican due to her short tenure in the George W. Bush White House, and Tillerson was a longtime GOP donor, but this cadre of individuals and others reportedly view their role as moderating the president’s campaign positions to protect the established order and status quo in Washington. They work closely with congressional leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to achieve their ends against the president’s agenda.
Interestingly, as Cohn and Tillerson were publicly attacking the president over the weekend, so was Ryan—for a different topic, the president’s decision to pardon former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
White House interim communications director Hope Hicks has not replied to a series of questions from Breitbart News about why the president is letting these people get away with this public humiliation of him, and how it shows weakness on his behalf. It remains to be seen if the president will do anything about it, but the display of lack of control of his own supposed allies weakens his position heading into what is likely to be one of the bloodiest legislative months in recent history. In September, Trump and Congress need to pass a spending bill, raise the debt ceiling, revisit efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, and begin tax reform.