December 14, 2017
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Trump’s business councils are disbanded after CEOs quit in protest

By David Shepardson and Michael Erman, Reuters
Updated:

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced the disbanding of two high-profile business advisory councils on Wednesday after corporate CEOs quit in protest over his remarks blaming violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, not only on white nationalists but also on the protesters who opposed them.

A parade of prominent Republicans and U.S. ally Britain also rebuked Trump after his comments on Tuesday about the weekend bloodshed further enveloped his 7-month-old presidency in controversy, paralyzed his policy aims and left him increasingly isolated.

Trump announced the dissolution of the American Manufacturing Council and Strategic and Policy Forum after a series of chief executives including Campbell Soup Co.’s Denise Morrison and 3M Co.’s Inge Thulin abandoned the panels. The two councils were moving to disband when Trump made his announcement on Twitter.

Trump, a real estate magnate who had never before held public office, was elected president last November touting his experience in the business world and ability to strike deals. But the Republican president has alienated many corporate leaders with some of his actions and stances.

The Strategic and Policy Forum was headed by Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman, a close ally of Trump in the business world. Schwarzman organized a call on Wednesday for member executives to voice concerns after Trump’s comments, and an overwhelming majority backed disbanding the council, two sources said. Schwarzman then called Trump to tell him about the decision to disband, and the president subsequently announced he was the one pulling the plug on the panels.

Prominent business figures heaped scorn on Trump on Wednesday.

“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,” Morrison said.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon, a member of one of the panels, said he strongly disagreed with Trump’s reaction to the events in Charlottesville, adding in a statement that “racism, intolerance and violence are always wrong” and “fanning divisiveness is not the answer.”

Trump said on Twitter, “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both.”

In Saturday’s violence there were clashes between white nationalists staging a rally in Charlottesville and anti-racism activists opposing them. A woman was killed when a car plowed into the counter-protesters.

Among the very few public figures to have publicly voiced support for Trump through the controversy over his response were Vice President Mike Pence, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and Richard Spencer, the head of a white nationalist group.

Along with the snubs from business leaders, Trump was rebuked by a string of Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Share prices on the U.S. stock market came under pressure as the demise of the Trump business panels added to investor worries about the future of the White House’s agenda.

“That throws a little bit more doubt into the president’s abilities to push his policies through,” said David Schiegoleit, managing director of investments at U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management in Newport Beach, California.

The dollar also weakened on the news, and Treasury debt prices gained on the most flight-to-safety bid, sending bond yields lower.

The Strategic and Policy Forum, which had 16 members when it was created last December, was designed to advise Trump on how government policy impacts economic growth, job creation and productivity.

The White House American Manufacturing Council, which started in January with 25 CEOs of top U.S. companies, was designed to promote job growth in the United States.

 


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