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At Harvard, Rashida Tlaib blasts comments by former Trump advisor Gary Cohn

Gary Cohn in a 2017 file photo.BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI

Gary Cohn, President Trump’s former top economic adviser and an ex-Goldman Sachs executive, got a cold reception from a newly elected liberal House freshman during an off-the-record event at Harvard Thursday.

Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who is among a new group of progressives elected on Nov. 6, blasted Cohn for comments she said he made in a closed-door meeting for new lawmakers that was hosted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.

“Gary Cohen, former CEO Goldman Sachs addressing new members of Congress today: ‘You guys are way over your head, you don’t know how the game is played,’” Tlaib posted on Twitter. “No Gary, YOU don’t know what’s coming - a revolutionary Congress that puts people over profits.”


Tlaib corrected the spelling of Cohn’s surname in a follow-up tweet, though not his title at Goldman. He served as Goldman’s president and chief operating officer. Cohn couldn’t be reached for comment, and Tlaib’s quotation of his remarks couldn’t be independently confirmed.

Tlaib’s tweet illustrates two emerging trends among incoming freshman Democrats who will be part of the party’s majority in the chamber starting in January: They sometimes get key details wrong but they’re willing to challenge the way Congress is run and break norms.

The panel was part of a three-day bipartisan orientation, one that has been held after every Congressional election since 1972, according to the IOP at the Harvard Kennedy School. New members of congress get to know each other and meet with governmental and corporate leaders. Among the many speakers at this year’s gathering were Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao; former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter; and General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, another progressive newly elected to Congress, also criticized the makeup of the IOP panel at Harvard Thursday.


“Right now Freshman members of Congress are at a ‘Bipartisan’ orientation w/ briefings on issues,” she wrote on Twitter. “# of Corporate CEOs we’ve listened to here: 4 # of Labor leaders: 0”

The pushback to Cohn on Twitter wasn’t the only example of how the newly elected progressives shook up the gathering.

On Tuesday, as events were getting underway, several incoming lawmakers -- including Massachusetts’s Ayanna Pressley and Lori Trahan, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Michigan’s Andy Levin -- exited the Kennedy School to join demonstrators outside who were speaking out on healthcare and climate change policies.