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Key White House economic adviser to depart

President Trump (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

White House National Economic Council Deputy Director Jeremy Katz is leaving the Trump administration early next month in what could mark a churn of senior advisers.

Katz, a Bush administration veteran who worked as NEC Director Gary Cohn’s lieutenant, played a central role in coordinating the administration’s push to overhaul the tax code. He was also one of four people officially advising Trump on the nomination for Federal Reserve chair.

Passage of the tax bill and the no-drama selection of Fed nominee Jerome Powell mark two of the smoother processes the White House has executed during a year that has been marked by controversies and senior staff turnover.

“Jeremy has been an invaluable partner in the development and execution of the President’s economic agenda, including the successful passage of historic tax reform,” Cohn said in a statement to The Washington Post. “He was instrumental in building a strong NEC team, and I’m grateful for the deep knowledge, skills and integrity he brought to his work.”

Katz was Cohn’s first hire at the NEC, and he built out the domestic team there, bringing on subject-matter experts who led the administration’s focus on things like tax, health care, infrastructure, agriculture, and a range of other issues.

Katz is leaving on a high note with the passage of the tax bill, but the White House’s economic policy record has been mixed. The NEC helped focus the White House’s position on the tax policy but has not finished other campaign goals, like a $1 trillion infrastructure plan or an overhaul of the health care system.

Trump has said he could roll out an infrastructure plan early next year, though he has given differing, at times off-the-cuff interpretations of what he might propose.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters, said Katz’s departure was amicable and that he had always expected to stay in the job for roughly a year. His family still lives in Chicago, and he commutes home every week.

The NEC has a unique role in any White House, as its team is meant to collect and analyze information and then help form policy recommendations for the president. Trump’s NEC typically had a daily meeting at 8:45 a.m. in Cohn’s office where Katz and other colleagues would meet and discuss their agenda and any new developments that needed attention. Many chief executives saw the NEC as their main point-of-contact within the Trump administration in part because of Cohn’s reputation in the business world.

Trump’s NEC emerged as a free-market force that was often at odds with other senior Trump advisers. Former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon proposed raising the top tax rate above 40 percent on Americans who earn more than $5 million, something Cohn and Katz opposed because they thought it would hurt the economy.

During the Bush administration, Katz worked as a senior policy adviser to then-Commerce Secretary Don Evans and then another four years in the West Wing.  After that, he was a managing director at GCM Grosvenor, a global investment and advisory firm.

Katz’s departure will mean the Trump administration has one fewer top aide with prior White House experience.

“Jeremy has been a deeply valued member of the White House staff, especially with regard to his support of the President’s economic policies,” White House chief of staff John F. Kelly said in a statement to The Washington Post. “I will miss his dedicated service, strong character, and extensive experience, and we wish him well in future endeavors.”

While the NEC had an uneven record in completing Trump’s ambitious economic agenda, the group’s influence could also be seen in things it prevented from happening, at least temporarily. Cohn and Katz have slowed – but not stopped – a push by other top White House officials to force a more confrontational approach with China and Mexico.

Trump has delayed some key trade decisions but he has not withdrawn from a trade agreement with South Korea or the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Katz’s counterpart at the National Security Council, deputy director Dina Powell, is also planning to leave the White House soon. Cohn was long thought to be planning his own exit, though he said on Wednesday that he would stay in the job at least another three months.

A successor has not been named.