Gary Cohn: Trump 'very much cares about the economy'

Gary Cohn, former president and CEO of Goldman Sachs and former White House National Economic Council Director: Trump was very interested and curious about the economic data.

Video Transcript

GARY COHN: --very much the president you get in a public format. That said, he very much cares about the economy, and he's very much driven by the economy. He's driven by GDP numbers. He's driven by employment numbers. He's driven by wage growth.

Yes, he talks about the stock market a lot because he-- he views that as a big public barometer. But below that, he does care about the fundamentals of the strength of the economy and job and wage growth.

- So what you've hit upon is important. Because if you're a Fox News viewer, you might think that the president absolutely gets it. If you're an MSNBC viewer, you might think he's clueless. You were in the office. You were in the room where it happened. Does he get it?

GARY COHN: So, absolutely, yes. And the reason I can say this is, remember, in the White House, we get the economic data a little bit before it comes out to the public. And one of my jobs and my team's jobs was to brief the president on what the economic data was saying. And so if it was unemployment data or GDP data, Kevin Hassett, myself, we would brief the president on that data.

He was very interested in that data, very curious on that data. What was the data saying? So when he would talk about manufacturing jobs being created in the job report, when he was talking about Black unemployment, Hispanic unemployment in the jobs report, he would dig into those numbers, and he would want to know beneath the surface of what the core unemployment rate was or what the core wage growth was, what was really going on beneath the surface.

- I want to ask you about those numbers, but I've got to ask you, as a Democrat, and your friends who are Democrats, does it annoy them when you say things like that? Because it paints the president in an understanding-- an economic understanding way that they would not get in their echo chambers.

GARY COHN: I don't know if that annoys my Democratic friends. I think on the economy, most of my Democratic friends would probably agree with me. And most of my friends are Democrats. So I think on the economy, we tend to see eye to eye.

And so I think that side of the equation, there is a lot of meetings of the minds. The president was trying to drive an economic agenda that was pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-business. And that was our objective. So if you look at the actions in the first year and a half or so that we were-- when we were-- when I was there in the White House. They're still there-- we were driving an agenda that was trying to grow the economy.

So if you look at the tax reform bill, it was pro-jobs, pro-growth, pro-business, pro-the-economy. If you look at deregulation, when we tried to deregulate the small and medium-sized banks, that was pro-growth, pro-the-economy, pro-jobs. Those all had the same intended consequences to them.