The White House is disputing a claim made by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) that an adviser to President Donald Trump deliberately faked a bad connection to end a phone call with the president.
On Wednesday, during an interview with CNN, Carper said that Gary Cohn, chief economic adviser, abruptly finished a phone discussion about tax reform with Trump earlier this month.
Carper recounted being in a meeting with Cohn, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short, and few other members of the Trump administration, along with some moderate Democrats, when Trump called while traveling in Asia.
"I said, 'Gary, why don't you do this, just take the phone from, you know, 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 told Poppy Harlow and John Berman on "CNN Newsroom.”
"That's what he did, and he hung up," Carper continued. "And then we went back to having the kind of conversation where we needed to, where they asked the right kind of questions, looking for consensus and common ground, and I think we identified a little bit."
However, soon after Carper’s on-air account of what occurred, the White House spoke out to dismiss his claims.
“Sen. Carper's claim is completely false," said Raj Shah, the White House's principal deputy press secretary. “Gary Cohn left the room and continued to speak with the president privately for several minutes before they concluded the call.”
While Shah’s comments may come across as an attempt at damage control, another Delaware Democrat, Sen. Chris Coons, said he also recalled a slightly different version of Carper’s story.
"It was a long call. It was clear that there was some eagerness in the room for us to resume our conversation. We heard a lot from the president," he reportedly explained to CNN's Jim Sciutto.
"I do remember Sen. Carper making that suggestion. I don't think Gary Cohn abruptly hung up on the president, but it was a challenge to transition him off the call. And I think Gary Cohn handled it appropriately," Coons continued.
One detail that seems to be clear is that Carper made some suggestion for getting off the phone with the longwinded president; however, it is unclear whether Cohn immediately hung up or if he just took the group off speakerphone and wrapped up the conversation in private. A spokeswoman for Carper said the senator did not remember that exact detail.
The big hoopla surrounding whether or not Cohn tricked Trump into getting off the phone is due to the notion that rushing someone off the phone indicates you are not interested in what they have to say. Using this logic, it would seem Cohn and Trump were at odds with each other.
In any event, the mere thought of a staffer using an age-old scheme on Trump, such as faking a poor connection, was enough to set off a string of brilliant Twitter jokes.
Wow, Gary Cohn does the same thing to Trump that I do with my family when they're rambling. Classic.— Shane Morris (@IamShaneMorris) November 22, 2017
Excuses people make to get out of conversations with President Trump:— mieke eoyang (@MiekeEoyang) November 22, 2017
Bad connection -- Gary Cohn
Don't speak Engish -- Akie Abe https://t.co/0m7N0ImKrC
gary cohn: crinkle crinkle hissing sound weird echo— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) November 22, 2017
trump: did you just say the words 'crinkle crinkle hissing sound'
cohn: oh no dropped call
Gary Cohn on phone with POTUS pic.twitter.com/fJcN1XtpLV— Shawn Reynolds (@ShawnWTVM9) November 22, 2017
Gary Cohn was all pic.twitter.com/fXmLp8jC6k— ElElegante101 (@skolanach) November 22, 2017
Gary Cohn faked a bad connection with Donny to get out of talking to him - can we replicate this on a national level, public-to-president?— Negin Farsad (@NeginFarsad) November 22, 2017
Twitter: Gary Cohn faked a bad connection to get off then phone with Trump.— Frederick Douglass (@gettinnoticedmo) November 22, 2017