World

Trump's turnabout sparks talk of aides leaving too

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump's turnabout on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, has rocked his administration, leading to speculation that some top officials may be looking for a way out.

A parade of business executives broke ties with Mr Trump on Wednesday, a day after he blamed white nationalists and counter-protesters in equal measure for the weekend clashes that left one woman dead.

Now, frustrated aides could be next - Mr Trump's remarks have left some wondering if sticking by him comes at too high a cost to their reputations.

"A lot of us joined this administration thinking we could bring to it the experience and expertise that the president did not have an opportunity to gain in his business career and to encourage some restraint in what he says publicly and to our allies," said one senior official who is contemplating resigning.

"After yesterday, it is clear that there is no way for anyone, even a Marine general, to restrain (Mr Trump's) impulses or counter what he sees on TV and reads on the web."

It was hoped that retired general John Kelly, Mr Trump's new chief of staff, could impose some form of discipline on Mr Trump that his predecessor, Mr Reince Priebus, could not.

But Mr Kelly stood with his eyes fixed on the floor when Mr Trump veered off-script at Trump Tower in Manhattan on Tuesday, accusing the protesters, who rallied against neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, of being "very, very violent".

In the uproar that followed, chief executives at companies such as Under Armour, Intel, Campbell Soup and 3M quit advisory councils to the White House. Mr Trump then dissolved the councils.

The exodus of executives sparked talk that Mr Gary Cohn, Mr Trump's top White House economic adviser and a key liaison to the US business community, might resign in protest.

Mr Cohn, who is Jewish, was upset by Mr Trump's remarks but is remaining with the administration for now, sources said.

Along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Mr Cohn stood by Mr Trump during his Tuesday remarks but in particular looked uncomfortable.

"He's worried about his reputation being trashed, which is much more valuable to him than anything else," a former administration official who knows Mr Cohn said.- REUTERS

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