Former Goldman Sachs COO Gary Cohn faces a big first hurdle as the White House economic adviser as he helps launch an ambitious overhaul of the tax system.
“My No. 1 one priority from now until the end of the year is taxes. My second priority is taxes. And if you’re confused, my third priority is taxes,” Cohn told Bloomberg News in an interview to discuss his efforts on the president’s behalf.
After the push to repeal or replace Obamacare stalled, Trump needs a major legislative win, putting more pressure on the “Group of Six” to deliver for the president.
The group includes Cohn as well as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady.
While the majority of media attention focuses on the palace intrigue of Trump’s inner circle and the implosion of the Obamacare repeal, the tax group has focused intently on working in the White House with interested parties on tax cuts.
That will continue in August, according to White House officials, while the president spends his working vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey.
“While the West Wing is renovated, the team continues to work full steam ahead on tax reform,” a senior White House official told Breitbart News.
Cohn was spotted at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s annual Party for Pink in the Hamptons on Saturday. “I have White House phones, I’m working. No one’s on vacation in the White House,” he quipped at the event. Cohn was the benefit co-chair with his wife Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn.
A White House source confirmed that Cohn will be meeting with Trump during the president’s “working” vacation to discuss tax reform and other issues.
Cohn faces pressure to deliver. Despite support from Trump and his senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Cohn’s background remains a liability in the eyes of Trump’s populist Republican base.
Trump’s political enemies already believe Cohn’s presence in the White House proves the president failed to offer real change in Washington, DC, citing his adviser’s ties to Goldman Sachs and his party affiliation with Democrats.
But White House aides defend his background, focusing on his real-world experience as an asset to the president’s goals.
“He is not an overly partisan or a political person. He really is very pragmatic and worries about getting things done,” one White House official told Breitbart News. “He has relationships on the Hill [with] both Republicans and Democrats. He works well with both parties.”
Despite Cohn’s professed commitment to his current position, rumors continue swirling of a possible bigger role in government.
After White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was fired, reporters cited rumors that Cohn was a possible candidate for Trump’s chief of staff. That speculation ended quickly after Gen. John Kelly was appointed.
White House aides appeared pleased with Trump’s decision to bring in Kelly, as sources close to the administration downplayed the idea that he was ever a serious candidate.
“I think everyone is very excited to have Gen. Kelly here and the leadership that he is providing,” a White House official explained.
But speculation about Cohn’s future persists, especially after Trump floated him as a potential Federal Reserve Chairman in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
“I’ve known Gary for a long time – but I’ve gained great respect for Gary working with him,” Trump said. “So Gary certainly would be in the mix.”
It was unclear whether Trump was merely boosting his economic adviser’s reputation in front of the press or was seriously considering him for the position. In the same interview, Trump added that Cohn “loves what he’s doing” and was “doing a very good job” in his current position.
Economists are increasingly betting that Cohn will get the job, according to a Bloomberg survey.
As Breitbart’s John Carney reported, Cohn’s Wall Street ties to the 2008 financial collapse would offer a silver platter of drama to Democrats seeking to reclaim the populist mantle from Trump’s base during his confirmation hearings.
The White House did not respond to questions about Federal Reserve chair speculation.