US President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn has publicly criticized his handling of the Charlottesville deadly violence, saying the protest caused him "distress" and prompted him to draft a resignation letter; but he later changed his mind and decided to stay on the job
Cohn, the National Economic Council director, told The Financial Times in an interview published on Friday that “citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK(The Ku Klux Klan).”
“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," he told the Times.
Cohn said he wrote a resignation letter after the president blamed "both sides" for the violence, according to The New York Times. He said that he "compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks" and came under intense pressure to quit over Trump's reaction to the incident but decided against it.
The Trump administration has not commented about whether Cohn drafted a resignation letter.
The rebuke of the president by a member of his inner circle came almost two weeks after white supremacist and neo-Nazi activists clashed with anti-racism protesters in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia.
The bloody clashes, which led to three deaths and more than a dozen injuries, ratcheted up racial tensions across the country.
The deadly incident sparked even a bigger crisis across the country when Trump refused to immediately condemn white nationalists, and instead, he blamed the violence “on both sides” of the conflict.
“You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now,” the president told reporters at Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Although the White House publicly defended Gary’s response to the events in Charlottesville as “open and honest,” a White House official privately told The Washington Post that Trump was furious about Cohn’s public airing of the critics.
Asked whether the president was aware of what his adviser said, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "I don't think anyone was surprised about the comments."
Cohen’s critics, however, believe that there is a potential for deterioration in the relationship between Trump and his chief economic adviser.
One of his critics outside the White House said, “Cohn looks like he blew himself up, so we’re not going to have to blow him up,” The Post quoted him as saying on condition of anonymity.