A group of moderate Democratic senators recently attended a meeting on tax policy at the White House, and Donald Trump called into the discussion during his Asia-Pacific trip, apparently hoping the personal touch would help persuade them to support the Republican plan.
By all accounts, the meeting didn't go especially well. As we discussed two weeks ago, Trump reportedly talked more than he listened; he couldn’t address any of the substantive details of tax policy; he brazenly lied about the tax benefits that would go towards the wealthy in his party’s plan; and he apparently shared an anecdote about a fictional conversation with his accountant.
But our understanding of the conversation took an interesting turn this morning.
Top White House economic advisor Gary Cohn pretended to have a bad connection to get off a call with President Donald Trump this month, a Democratic senator said Wednesday.Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware told CNN that Cohn took the call from the president during a discussion with Democratic senators about tax reform. Carper said Cohn wanted to have a conversation on tax reform without Trump, who was traveling in Asia at the time.
As the Delaware Democrat explained it, it was nice of the president to call in personally to the conversation, but Trump just kept talking. Reflecting on the events, Carper said, "I said to Gary, it was a room where we're all sitting around this big table, and I said, 'Gary why don't you do this, just take the phone from, you know, your cellphone back and just say, 'Mr. President, you're brilliant! But we're losing contact, and I think we're going to lose you now, so good-bye.'"
Carper, referring to Gary Cohn, added, "And that's what he did, and he hung up."
Pressed by the CNN host if Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council at Trump's White House, actually faked a bad connection in order to get the president off the phone, the senator replied, "Well, I wouldn't -- I don't want to throw him under the bus, but yes."
Not surprisingly, the White House insists Carper's version of events is "completely false." That said, Trump World's track record for honesty is abysmal, and unless officials want Cohn to be fired immediately, this isn't exactly the kind of story the White House is going to confirm.
But if Carper's story is accurate, it helps shed some light on what members of Team Trump think about the president during unguarded moments. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for example, reportedly described Trump as a "f***ing moron" after a meeting over the summer, and BuzzFeed had an unconfirmed piece this week about similarly unflattering remarks about the president from National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
In other words, if you're curious about whether people close to the president are cognizant of some of Trump's more glaring limitations, there's at least some evidence to suggest they are.