Kevin Hassett, a fixture in conservative economic circles for two decades who vigorously defended President Trump’s signature tax cuts, will soon be stepping down as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.
“Kevin Hassett, who has done such a great job for me and the Administration, will be leaving shortly,” Trump tweeted Sunday night after leaving for Great Britain. “His very talented replacement will be named as soon as I get back to the U.S. I want to thank Kevin for all he has done -- he is a true friend!”
Hassett, 57, who directed economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute before joining the administration, regularly credited the overhaul of the tax code with boosting financial markets and wages during television appearances and media briefings.
He provided relentlessly positive economic analysis, served as a booster for the president’s trade policies and was well liked at the White House. Hassett thrived despite initial skepticism from hard-liners within Trump’s circle who were upset when he was first appointed because of his past support for immigration as a driver of economic growth.
But Hassett’s influence within the West Wing appeared tempered by a president who regularly bases policy decisions on gut feelings rather than detailed statistical analyses. His post was downgraded from a Cabinet-level position, as it had been under recent presidents.
Hassett told CNBC on Monday that his exit is not connected Trump’s tariff threats against China and Mexico.
“This is something that’s been in the works for a little while,” Hassett told the financial news outlet. “If you look at the history of the CEA, it’s very normal for the chair to move on after two years.”
Hassett’s tenure was also marred by occasional factual miscues and the decision to quibble with traditional statistics that didn’t support Trump’s claims of historic economic growth. His office has regularly promoted alternative measures to data produced by the Congressional Budget Office, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau on key issues including wages, inflation, poverty and deficits, while complaining about outside analyses that showed the president’s trade conflicts hurting the economy.
Last year, Hassett told CNN that the economics team at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. “almost at times looks like the Democratic opposition” after the bank’s strategists estimated that Trump’s tariffs could hurt corporate earnings next year.
And other claims have proven inaccurate. In August, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump had tripled Obama’s eight-year job creation record for black workers in just 18 months, quoting inaccurate numbers. She later issued a correction, and Hassett apologized for the error.
Earlier in the year, Trump posted a false statistic on Twitter comparing U.S. gross domestic product to unemployment. Hassett said he didn’t know how the error was made.
“I’m not the chairman of the council of Twitter advisors,” he said.