Trump told Gary Cohn to ‘print money’ to lower the national debt
As a candidate, Donald Trump pledged to balance the federal budget and lower the national debt, promises that are proving difficult to keep.
Once he won, Trump considered an unusual approach that was quickly slapped down by his chief economic advisor, according to veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which went on sale Tuesday.
“Just run the presses — print money,” Trump said, according to Woodward, during a discussion on the national debt with Gary Cohn, former director of the White House National Economic Council.
“You don’t get to do it that way,” Cohn said, according to Woodward. “We have huge deficits and they matter. The government doesn’t keep a balance sheet like that.”
Cohn was “astounded at Trump’s lack of basic understanding,” Woodward writes.
The vignette is one of many in the acclaimed investigative reporter’s book that describes a chaotic White House and a president being handled by top aides concerned by his behavior and decision-making.
Several people in Trump’s orbit have called the book’s accuracy into question, while Woodward has maintained several times that he stands by his reporting. In a note at the beginning of “Fear,” the author notes that the work “is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with first-hand participants and witnesses to these events.”
Cohn on Tuesday pushed back on the Woodward book. The former Goldman Sachs banker told Axios: “This book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House. I am proud of my service in the Trump Administration, and I continue to support the President and his economic agenda.”
Trump, meanwhile, has dismissed the book as a “scam” filled with “made up” quotes.
The president also floated an idea for making money from the recent rise in interest rates, according to Woodward.
“We should just go borrow a lot of money, hold it, and then sell it to make money,” Trump reportedly said.
The president also made clear that he was not pleased by the Federal Reserve’s current policy toward moving interest rates back to historical levels after suppressing them during the decade that followed the 2008 financial crisis. Cohn said he supported the Fed’s move to raise rates.
Trump then told Cohn that he wouldn’t pick him to be Fed chair, according to the book.
“That’s fine,” Cohn said, Woodward reports. “It’s the worst job in America.”
Trump chose Jerome Powell to succeed Janet Yellen as Fed chair. However, the president has criticized the Fed for raising rates while the economy surges.
“I’m not thrilled,” he told CNBC’s Joe Kernen in a July interview. “Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again. I don’t really — I am not happy about it. But at the same time I’m letting them do what they feel is best.”