He also fought against the tariffs, a battle he was destined to lose. But he said Trump also is losing, evidenced by the record trade deficits in 2018 with both China and the rest of the world. The U.S. shortfall with China was $419.2 billion for the year, an increase of 11.6 percent. Globally, the deficit was $621 billion, up 12.5 percent year over year.
"Did it hurt the Chinese at all? We had record trade deficits," Cohn said. "The president needs a win. The only big open issue right now that he could claim as a big win that he'd hope would have a big impact on the stock market would be a Chinese resolution. Getting the trade deficit down I will never say is easy, but of the issues on the table, that's relatively easier."
However, he said the president is in for a tougher time in trying to resolve intellectual theft and forced transfer of technology issues.
Nevertheless, Cohn said he gives Trump credit for a number of achievements, including "a pretty robust economy" as well as stock market gains that have held up reasonably well even after a rough 2018. Cohn said he would grade himself a "B" for his performance in the White House.
The White House did not immediately reply to a CNBC request for comment.