Trump's senior economic officials are fleeing — and it's worrying observers: report

Trump's senior economic officials are fleeing — and it's worrying observers: report
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo watches as President Donald J. Trump addresses journalists in New York, on September 25, 2019, during high-level week of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

Amidst the economic catastrophe triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump’s administration is facing a wave of departures from at least half a dozen senior economic officials, Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein reported in a new piece.

One of them is Bimal Patel, the top deputy to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Stein reports that according to three sources who spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity, Patel will be leaving at the end of this week. And departures that the Trump White House recently announced include Andrew Olmem, who was deputy director of the White House National Economic Council; Kevin Hassett, a senior White House economic official; Eric Ueland, a White House director of legislative affairs; and Tomas J. Philipson, who was acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Ernie Tedeschi, who served as an economic adviser under former President Barack Obama, told the Post: “Patel’s departure is concerning because there is still risk to the financial system, although it’s diminished over the last several months. It’s not ‘Mission Accomplished’ yet.”

Stein reports that according to two sources, Philipson was forced out of Trump’s administration. Philipson, who recently had a mild case of COVID-19, told the Wall Street Journal that he had become “frustrated with the process of advising the president.”

The coronavirus pandemic and the closing of so many brick-and-mortar businesses have created double-digit unemployment in the U.S. But Trump and his allies have been promising a “V-shaped” recovery — that is, a brief recession followed by jobs returning at a rapid pace. However, others have warned that the current recession could last much longer than Trump’s administration is predicting.

“The departures add an additional set of challenges to the administration’s daunting task of stabilizing the economy ahead of the 2020 presidential election,” Stein explains. “President Trump and senior officials have promised a swift rebound in the economy as public health restrictions are relaxed, but a rebound in coronavirus cases and persistently high unemployment claims threaten the lives of tens of millions of Americans.”

Republican Bill Hoagland, who serves as senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and was staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, told the Post that White House economic officials have been expressing frustration to him about a lack of clarity and direction on economic matters during the pandemic.

Discussing the departures of the senior economic officials, Hoagland told the Post: “It reflects a great deal of confusion about the path going forward by the Republican economists there and the terrible situation we find ourselves in. It’s a high level of frustration, especially at the career staff level.”


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