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Summers: Trump Cabinet resignations could unfold like 'a dam breaking'

Nicole Sinclair
Markets Correspondent

Larry Summers, who at the beginning of the week called for all CEOs to leave President Donald Trump’s councils, now says his cabinet should be the next group to resign.

“I think more and more people are going to find it hard to live with themselves being part of this administration,” Summers said. “I think if they don’t, their families are going to puncture the egoistic delusion that they’re somehow being enormously effective.”

He added that the president’s press conference on Tuesday that followed the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville is still sinking in for the advisors in his administration.

“I suspect it will be like a dam breaking,” Summers said. “Someone will decide to resign and once one person has, others will follow.”

Summers, who served as Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton and National Economic Council (NEC) Chair under President Barack Obama, knows what he would do if he were in their shoes.

“I know if I were part of an administration that was even a portion of the way toward what this president has done, I would have resigned,” he said.

“Moral courage”

NEC Chair Gary Cohn, who is said to be the leading contender to be Fed Chair when Janet Yellen’s term expires next year, has to weigh the impact of his role, Summers said.

“I’m not able to speak for [Cohn’s] motivations or his calculations and frankly I pay him the respect of recognizing that he knows an enormous amount about the parameters and contours of his particular situation that I can’t possibly know,” Summers explained. “What I can do is say what I believe I would do. What I believe the pressures I would feel are from my family. And what with a large number of people in that administration I would hope very much and kind of expect will happen before too long.”

Former Clinton Treasury Secretary and Obama economic advisor Larry Summers

Summers added that it’s not unprecedented for White House officials to step down when the administration’s choices diverge from their moral views. As an example, he pointed to officials who stepped down after the passage of welfare reform bills under the Clinton administration.

“I didn’t share the view of the people who resigned, but I respected their moral courage,” Summers explained.

“How no political appointee can be resigning from this administration is kind of inexplicable. I suspect it will change,” he said. “Things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.”

Summers added there is a “moral imperative” that there be departures.

“This wasn’t an off-the-cuff, casual unprepared remark,” he said with regard to Trump’s response to last weekend’s violence. “This came after days of criticism of his failure to understand and failure to stand up against hate. And he doubled down in favor of hate.”

“After the president’s press conference, the White House circulated, disseminated, uttered a big collection of talking points, saying it had been a wonderful press conference. Dozens of people must have been involved in writing those points, disseminating, distributing, delivering those points. How can those people live with themselves?”

A president sympathetic to people walking around with torches

Summers said that when it comes to national security, he values the importance of having moderate, experienced advisors to the president. But when it comes to Trump’s economic agenda, he has seen no evidence of the advantage of moderate advisors.

“Any individual can always convince themselves that they’re somehow being effective and having a major restraining influence,” Summers said.

He explained there has been no rational approach to health insurance, no tax reform plan put forward, and no comprehensive infrastructure plan. Even the White House executive order to deregulate infrastructure reform was overshadowed by Trump’s press conference rant.

“I’m not sure what one would point to as the efficacy of what has come out of the experienced people in the administration,” Summers said.

“Certainly they have lent their reputations to a president who has literally been sympathetic to people that are walking around with torches,” he added. “I think you have to think about it.”

Nicole Sinclair is markets correspondent at Yahoo Finance

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