The New York Times reported on Friday that Donald Trump is expected to name president and chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn, his new director of the National Economic Council, a role that is often filled by top Goldman Executives and was established under Bill Clinton. Cohn, a registered Democrat, will oversee the White House’s economic policy, according to the Times.
While Trump’s appointment of Cohn is in no way unprecedented, it does undermine many statements he made during his campaign. This is, perhaps, even less unprecedented.
In the days leading up to the election, Trump’s team released a campaign ad featuring the face of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein to the tune of a voiceover proclaiming, “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that has robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.” The ad incited charges of antisemitism against the Trump campaign.
Trump also famously criticized Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz for having ties to Goldman. “I know the guys at Goldman Sachs,” Trump said in a primary debate. “They have total control over Hillary Clinton.”
Two weeks ago, Trump selected a former Goldman executive hedge fund manager with no government experience, Steve Mnuchin, to be his Treasury Secretary. Trump also tapped former Goldman banker Steve Bannon to be his chief strategist. Cohn’s appointment prompted Bloomberg columnist Justin Fox to declare on Friday that, “Government Sachs is back! Or maybe it never went away.”
Not surprisingly, given his skill set, the move from Wall Street to Washington is expected to be immensely profitable for Cohn, according to the Times:
“Leaving Wall Street to take a top government post could provide a huge financial gain for Mr. Cohn.
He would probably have to sell his Goldman holdings to avoid conflicts of interest with his new role, which would normally generate a big tax bill immediately. But tax regulations allow executive branch appointees to roll the proceeds of such a sale into Treasury securities and defer capital gains taxes.”
It’s almost like the White House is the new Wall Street, or at least more so than ever before.