This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," March 6, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: Gary Cohn announcing he is leaving the White House, possibly leaving the West Wing in about three weeks time. He put out a statement a bit earlier today. Here's part what it read "It has been an honor to serve my country and enact pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform. I am grateful to the President for giving me this opportunity and wish him and the Administration great success in the future."
On the heels of that we have a statement from the president as well that reads the following, "Gary has been my chief economic advisor and did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again. He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people."
All of that news breaking just about one hour again. Let's bring in our panel: Michael Needham, chief executive officer at Heritage Action for America; Amy Walter, national editor for the Cook Political Report, and Eli Lake, columnist for Bloomberg View. Good evening. We had a different topic prepared for you but this is the topic of the hour, let's say. Michael, your reaction?
MICHAEL NEEDHAM, HERITAGE ACTION FOR AMERICA: It's interesting. It's something that has been talked as potentially happening for many, many months, yet it was still surprising when it happened today. Gary Cohn has been someone who has assembled a fantastic team inside the White House. They've had tremendous accomplishments on behalf of the president. You look at the tax cut which was historic, the regulatory rollback. Today the Senate is moving forward with the rollback of Dodd-Frank, getting at that which attacks America's equity markets.
And so Gary Cohn has been there at the president's side with a remarkable record of economic success. It's important for the president to continue doing that and not roll that back with things like tariffs or some of the other policies that we've seen talked about in recent days.
HEMMER: I believe they had a good relationship. It appeared to be that way. But he drew the line on tariffs, Amy, Gary Cohn did.
AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Yes, he seemed to draw the line on a number of things. He was upset about the pulling out of Paris Accords initially. He was not a big fan of that. And then of course there was a very dramatic break with the president on the president's reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, with Cohn saying out loud I was thinking about resigning. I had actually penned a letter of resignation but I'm going to stick with this administration. But I disagree with the way that the president reacted to it, saying there is violence on both sides.
And now obviously we've known for a long time the tariff issue was one that divided the president's economic team. He has been on the side of arguing against more tariffs or any tariffs at all. So that's not particularly surprising to see that he is on the other side of it. I agree that it's surprising that it was today. But I think we all knew whoever won the war on tariffs was going to ultimately going to stay in and who lost was ultimately going to leave.
HEMMER: It appeared that Gary Cohn came from the left side of the aisle when it came to politics. But Gary Cohn is siding with Republicans on the Hill on this whole tariff issue. And that's driving this wedge now between Republicans in Congress and the president who says I ran on this and the expect me to do this, Eli.
ELI LAKE, BLOOMBERG VIEW: The president ran on a lot of things he didn't do. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's a good thing that we're going to be apparently embracing an economic policy from 100 years ago which I think is going to be bad for the constituency that Trump claims to represent, the forgotten. A lot of their prices are going to go up. And Gary Cohn comes from Goldman Sachs. That is something that is in some ways both left and right and neither left nor right, and it represents the center of American politics. This is a significant blow.
And in some way I think it does show a fracture of American politics in a deep way. And the fact that so many Republicans in Congress and a lot of Democrats too in Congress are really uncomfortable with the tariff policy, and we'll see how far it can go. But the president has a lot of authority here.
HEMMER: The West Wing itself, if you look back over the last 13-and-a-half months, let's say, just on-screen we will put the numbers and the faces and the names of those who were in the West Wing are now gone. I count 19 either resigning or fired, 19 in less than 14 months. This tweet from the president on White House chaos I think is interesting too. It reads the following, "The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House. Wrong! People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great Energy!" Michael?
NEEDHAM: Well, it certainly feels pretty chaotic today. I think if you look over the last 14 months, it's been a White House that has stormed and then it's come together in norms, and then it stormed again and normed again. Obviously it works better when the team is working together. And frankly Washington needs strong executive leadership. Congress, 535 people all of whom have different ambitions and different things that they are worried about needs an executive branch that is sitting there saying this is what the team is doing. Let's go forward. The chaos doesn't help with that, but we have seen this in the past. And I am sure the White House will come back together and start operating in a more normal fashion.
HEMMER: What he said today is if people leave I have got plenty of people who can come right through the door. And he said we have had plenty of talented people who want to work here at the White House, Amy.
WALTER: Well, we're going to see who takes the place of the national economic advisor. But look, I think that the chaos is part of the strategy. It's not a bug in the system. It is the system. This is where the president feels the most comfortable, being in a situation where it looks as if there is no order and he seems to be the most comfortable in that.
But a lot of people, that is not how they like to work. And it is also a very difficult way to push strategy. All Republicans on the Hill want to talk about right now, tax cuts and the economy, period. They don't want to talk about tariffs. They don't want to have to go off on a lot of these tangents, but the president and the White House seem to be unable to focus just on that one strategy.
HEMMER: Quickly on chaos in the White House.
LAKE: It's not comparable to any modern president. And I think that the number of resignations, the fact it's hard to figure out what the policy is, is it its own form of abdication and should worry us all.
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