One of the major areas of focus for President Trump’s administration has been stimulating the economy by creating an environment favorable to businesses. For the first months of his presidency, Trump has tried to accomplish that with input from the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum–councils comprised of CEOs from the nation’s leading corporations.
But following the president’s much-criticized remarks that left-leaning violent extremists were as responsible as white supremacists for the deaths at Charlottesville, several executives walked out of the councils. In response, Trump has now dissolved both the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum, as announced on Twitter.
Both of these groups were intended to be a “meeting of the minds” that would play a regular role in helping to shape business-friendly policy, as reported by The Washington Post. However, the Manufacturing Council had only one official meeting before being disbanded.
A number of prominent business leaders from the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum stepped down from their association with the White House over Trump’s stance on the Charlottesville tragedy.
As CNN noted, Trump condemned extremists on “both sides” at Charlottesville, in contrast to detractors who placed the blame solely on the white supremacists. The New York Times reported that Trump indicated to the press on Tuesday that the left-wing counter-protesters at Charlottesville wore masks, wielded weapons, and were looking for a confrontation.
While Trump’s remarks have been popular with his base, and mainstream media publications like the Miami Herald have agreed with the president’s evaluation of both sides precipitating violence, many of the CEOs in the White House’s economic groups took issue and decided to part ways.
Kenneth Frazier of the pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. was one of the first to step down from the Manufacturing Council, as reported by NBC News. He publicly criticized the president for an alleged failure to condemn hate groups, stating: “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”
USA Today reported that Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank stepped down soon thereafter. Plank had previously faced criticism for comments supportive of Trump. As CNBC observed, actor Dwayne Johnson joined in censuring the Under Armour head. According to Business Insider, other company leaders who have dissociated themselves from Trump include Richard Trumka of AFL-CIO and Brian Krzanich of Intel.
Other CEOs departed previously for other motives. Bog Iger of Disney and Elon Musk of Tesla Motors withdrew after President Trump pulled the US from the Paris Climate Accord. In response to the departures of the executives, Trump dissolved the two economic groups completely. The move puts President Trump at odds with his National Economic Council director Gary Cohn.
Cohn, who oversaw the two groups, was “disgusted” by Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville, as reported by Breitbart. According to rumors, Cohn was under consideration for the role of chief of staff before it was ultimately given to former DHS head Gen. John Kelly.
While Cohn is not leaving the administration, he is reportedly upset with the president. Trump is seemingly at odds with the power players in the corporate community, though it is not certain whether that will have any electoral impact as long as he remains in tune with his base.
Certainly, the CEOs of the corporations in question will benefit from President Trump’s agenda on economics. Perhaps they should consider the president’s actual words on Charlottesville, rather than the mainstream media’s characterization of what he said.