Gary Cohn

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"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said

Cohn was once a top contender for Fed chair

Washington CNN  — 

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said Thursday that he remained at the White House even after criticizing President Donald Trump’s response to Charlottesville because of the “once in a lifetime opportunity” to rewrite the tax code.

“Why am I here? I am here just for this reason. Think about the opportunity I am involved in with President Trump to rewrite the tax code,” Cohn told reporters during the White House briefing.

Cohn stressed that he can have an enormous impact on the US economy and its trajectory if the administration is successful in its tax reform effort.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said.

In the wake of racially charged deadly violence in Virginia last month, Cohn, a high-profile Jewish member of the administration, told the Financial Times Trump’s handling of the protests caused him “distress.” He said the administration “can and must do better” to condemn hate groups.

“Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities. As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job,” Cohn had said.

Cohn was once a top contender to be named chairman of the Federal Reserve, but his public rebuke of Trump caused him to fall out of the President’s good graces.

CNN’s Sara Murray and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.