Trump overlooks aide while talking tax
US President Donald Trump has made his first major tax reform speech but in a long list of thank yous he didn’t mention Gary Cohn, the White House point man on taxes who travelled with Trump to the event.
At a manufacturing company in Springfield, Missouri, on Wednesday, Trump reiterated his longstanding call for slashing the US corporate tax rate to 15 per cent from 35 per cent at a time when lawmakers believe they could be lucky to bring it down to 25 per cent.
When asked about the omission of Cohn’s name, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Air Force One, en route to Washington from Missouri, that it was customary for Trump to recognise Cabinet members, but not advisers, in speeches.
Cohn travelled with Trump on Air Force One for the Missouri speech, in which Trump called on the Democrats to join his tax overhaul effort. He said he would cut taxes and simplify the sprawling US tax code for the middle class. But he offered few specifics, and tax reform will be an uphill task in Congress.
“We must reduce the tax rate on American businesses so they keep jobs in America, create jobs in America and compete for workers right here in America,” Trump said in his first presidential speech specifically on tax reform, one of his key 2016 campaign issues.
Both congressional Democrats and Republicans say tax reform is needed but the Republican goal of enacting legislation this year faces a battle in Congress, which has already failed to deliver on healthcare reform sought by Trump.
During his speech, Trump did single out Cabinet members, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Small Business Administration head Linda McMahon, as well as members of Congress — more than a dozen people in all.
He asked his daughter Ivanka Trump, who is not a Cabinet member but is a staff member, to stand and be recognised in his speech at a manufacturing company in Springfield.
“Anybody I forgot?” Trump asked.
Cohn, who stood next to the stage during the speech with Sanders, has worked side-by-side for months with Mnuchin developing Trump’s tax reform strategy.
“It’s pretty standard practice for us not to specifically call out staff,” Sanders told reporters afterward. “He regularly mentions Cabinet members but very rarely mentions staff in speeches.”
Asked if the oversight of Cohn was significant, Sanders said, “Well, look, Gary is here. The president is here. They’re both working hard and extremely committed to providing tax relief for middle-class America. The president has made very clear this is a top priority for him, for his administration, and Gary is one of the people leading the charge.”
Cohn recently criticised Trump for his comments about violence at racially charged protests in Virginia earlier this month.