16 April 2021

Trump’s Business Councils Disband After CEOs Defect

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Two of President Donald Trump’s councils of top business leaders are disbanding following Tuesday’s controversial remarks by the president about the weekend’s violence in Virginia.

Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday that he was ending the White House council on manufacturing and the Strategic and Policy Forum.

One of the councils had planned to disband after a conference call of its executives on Wednesday morning, a person familiar with the matter said. Mr. Trump’s tweet came after reports that council was disbanding.

Blackstone Group LP Chief Executive Stephen A. Schwarzman, who led the Strategic and Policy Forum, phoned the president on Wednesday to inform him the group was being disbanded, according to people familiar with the call.

After the call, which was described as cordial, the president tweeted that it was his decision to disband that council. In that tweet, he also announced he was disbanding the manufacturing-advisory council.

A White House spokesman declined to comment.

The disbanding of the councils marks a setback for Mr. Trump, who campaigned as a business-friendly candidate. Executives at many of the biggest companies in the U.S. have over the past months denounced various actions and statements he has made.

“As our members have expressed individually over the past several days, intolerance, racism and violence have absolutely no place in this country and are an affront to core American values,” the Strategic and Policy Forum said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Trump remains under fire from all sides after his combative Tuesday press conference at Trump Tower where he undermined his more forceful condemnation of “the KKK, neo-Nazis [and] white supremacist groups” by again leveling blame on the antifascist protesters who confronted the white nationalist gathering in Virginia, aligning himself behind their stated cause and questioning the removal of Confederate statutes and noting that there were “many fine people” on both sides.

The Strategic and Policy Forum and manufacturing-advisory council were two business initiatives begun in the early days of the Trump presidency. The groups were created to meet with Mr. Trump to consult as he implemented a broad economic plan that included reworking the U.S. tax code and stemming the flow of U.S. jobs to other countries.

Now they are no more.

Chief executives belonging to the manufacturing council had long questioned its purpose, according to a person familiar with the matter. It had last met in February, and there hadn’t been any plans for a new meeting or other follow-up since. Executives on the council had been asking each other what the point was.

But many of the executives on the council felt it was important to have a seat at the table as the White House deliberated on policies that could affect the companies, their industries and the American people, especially with a president who wasn’t familiar with many of their industries.

Tuesday’s press conference changed the calculus.

“After the press conference everything changed for everyone. It was clear from a value perspective we were not aligned,” the person familiar with the matter said. That evening, CEOs belonging to the council began discussing whether to stay.

Several CEOs on the Strategic and Policy Forum also called each other on Tuesday evening to discuss their dismay with Mr. Trump’s comments, people familiar with the matter said. About a dozen of the executives participated in the conference call organized by Mr. Schwarzman at 11:30 this morning. A majority of them were ready to resign, the people said. Toward the end of the conversation, one person raised the specter of a “tweet storm” in reaction from Mr. Trump.

According to an internal memo sent Wednesday afternoon that was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive James Dimon wrote that he “strongly” disagreed with Mr. Trump’s reaction to the clashes in Charlottesville.

“Racism, intolerance and violence are always wrong” Mr. Dimon wrote. “There is no room for equivocation here.”

Mr. Dimon added that “it is a leader’s role, in business or in government, to bring people together, not tear them apart.”

Click here for the original article from Wall Street Journal.
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