Carper: Gary Cohn Faked a Bad Connection to Get Trump Off the Phone During Tax Reform Meeting

White House calls Carper's account 'completely false'

November 22, 2017

Democratic Sen. Tom Carper (Del.) said Wednesday that White House economic adviser Gary Cohn followed his advice to fake a bad phone connection and hang up on President Donald Trump during a meeting earlier this month on tax reform.

The White House called the story "completely false" in a statement.

Senate Democrats met with Trump administration officials about tax reform on Nov. 7, and Trump himself called into the meeting to encourage them to support their efforts.

But according to Carper, Trump spoke for 15 minutes straight, and Carper fretted to Cohn that they weren't going to have a "real conversation" if Trump kept talking.

Carper told The Hill at the time that he asked Cohn to tell Trump he was "brilliant" and then pretend to lose the connection and hang up, but it wasn't clear until Wednesday that—according to Carper—Cohn actually did it.

CNN host Poppy Harlow recounted Carper's account of the story, and then said, "Seriously?"

"Seriously, and he did," Carper said, as Harlow and co-host John Berman laughed. "We'd been having about a half-an-hour conversation with Gary, with Marc Short, and with Shahira Knight ... Trying to see if there was some kind of middle ground on tax reform."

According to Carper, 30 minutes into the meeting, Cohn got a call from Trump in Asia, which Carper said was "nice," but he said, "15 minutes later, the president's still talking."

"I said, 'Gary, why don't you do this? Take your cell phone back and just say, Mr. President, you're brilliant, but we're losing contact and I think we're going to lose you now, so good-bye,'" Carper said. "And that's what he did and he hung up, and then we went back to having the kind of conversation that we needed to, where they asked good questions looking for consensus ... I think we identified a little bit."

Berman asked incredulously: "Are you saying Gary Cohn faked a bad connection to get the president off the phone?"

"Well, I don't want to throw him under the bus, but yes," Carper said.

"I think you just did," Harlow said.

Berman advised Cohn to "call your office."

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon that the story was not true, however, stating Cohn spoke with Trump privately for several minutes before ending the call.

"Senator Carper’s claim is completely false," Shah said. "Gary Cohn took the phone off speaker and continued to speak with the President privately for several minutes before they concluded the call."

UPDATE 12:52 P.M.: This story was updated with the White House saying Carper's account was false.