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Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

Trump's top economist to leave White House

WASHINGTON - Kevin Hassett, the White House's top economist, will leave the administration, President Donald Trump announced late Sunday, on the eve of his trip to Europe.

Hassett, who has served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers since September 2017, is leaving as Trump confronts an increasingly hostile trade war on two fronts - with China and with Mexico, the latter of which Trump threatened with tariffs last week if it doesn't do more to stem illegal migration.

A longtime conservative economist, Hassett helped shape the 2017 Republican tax law and has been a staunch defender of the president's policies on a number of other issues. Historically, he has been an advocate of open trade policies, though in recent months he has been put in the position of defending Trump's confrontational approach.

Hassett said in an interview Sunday night that his departure was unrelated to the escalating trade conflict.

He said that he informed the president of his plans to leave during a conversation in the White House last week, and that he will stay in the position for about another month.

"The trade story and the departure story are completely different stories," he said, adding that he considers the post as a two-year position.

Hassett's tenure may be defined by his role in crafting the tax law, which he cited as his top accomplishment on the job along with improving the transparency of the economic models published by the Council of Economic Advisers.

The council's arguments in support of the law have been fiercely criticized as outlandish. Hassett was also criticized for suggesting that federal workers during the shutdown were "better off."

"Hassett thought the tax cut would largely go to workers' paychecks. He was wrong," Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said Sunday. "He was fortunate to serve in an administration where facts don't matter."

Trump said on Twitter on Sunday night that Hassett has done a great job.

A "very talented replacement will be named as soon as I get back to the U.S.," Trump tweeted. "I want to thank Kevin for all he has done - he is a true friend!"

This article was written by Jeff Stein, a reporter for The Washington Post.