Gary Cohn prevented President Trump from following through on his frequent threat to withdraw from a trade agreement with South Korea by removing a letter announcing the withdrawal from the resolute desk, according to veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book.
In his upcoming book “Fear,” a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Post, Woodward claims Cohn “stole a letter off Trump’s desk” that if sent would have officially withdrawn the U.S. from the Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).
Cohn, then chief White House economic adviser, later told a colleague that he believed withdrawing from the deal would result in geopolitical crisis and cited national-security reasons in explaining his decision to steal the letter, which Trump reportedly never noticed was missing.
The veteran investment banker reportedly threatened in conversations with former White House adviser Rob Porter to employ the same tactic to prevent the U.S. from withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“I can stop this. I’ll just take the paper off his desk,” Cohn reportedly told Porter in reference to a letter he drafted at Trump’s direction, which would have immediately withdrawn the U.S. from NAFTA.
The book, which relies on interviews with dozens of unnamed sources inside the White House, details a culture of dysfunction and deceit inside the Trump administration. In addition to its implications for U.S. trade policy, the infighting and duplicity extended to issues of national security and legal strategy to combat the Mueller probe.
In one particularly heated meeting, Trump’s chief of staff, General John Kelly, compared Trump’s temperament and grasp of national-security matters to that of a “fifth or sixth grader.”
“He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had,” Kelly reportedly told his advisers.
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