Trump disbands business councils after
CEOs quit in protest
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[August 17, 2017]
By David Shepardson and Michael Erman
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - President
Donald Trump disbanded two high-profile business advisory councils on
Wednesday after several chief executives quit in protest over his
remarks blaming weekend violence in Virginia on anti-racism activists as
well as white nationalists.
A parade of prominent Republicans also rebuked Trump, as well as U.S.
ally Britain, leaving him increasingly isolated after his comments on
Tuesday about the bloodshed in the college town of Charlottesville
further enveloped his seven-month-old presidency in controversy.
The mayor of Phoenix asked Trump to delay a rally planned for next
Tuesday, an appeal the president appeared to reject.
A memorial service was held on Wednesday in Charlottesville for
32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car plowed into
anti-racism protesters on Saturday. A 20-year-old Ohio man said to have
harbored Nazi sympathies has been charged with her murder.
Trump, a real estate magnate who had never before held public office,
was elected president in November touting his experience in the business
world and ability to strike deals. However, some of the Republican
president's actions and words have alienated many corporate leaders.
He said he would dissolve the American Manufacturing Council and the
Strategic and Policy Forum after eight executives, including Campbell
Soup Co CEO Denise Morrison and 3M Co CEO Inge Thulin, quit the panels.
Both councils were moving to disband on their own when Trump made his
announcement on Twitter.
"Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing
Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both," he wrote.
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.
Campbell Soup Co's Morrison said: "Racism and murder are unequivocally
reprehensible and not morally equivalent to anything else that happened
JPMorgan Chase & Co CEO Jamie Dimon, a member of one of the panels, said
in a statement that "fanning divisiveness is not the answer."
Dow Chemical Co Chief Executive Andrew Liveris, who headed the
manufacturing council, said he told the White House on Wednesday that
"in the current environment it was no longer possible to conduct
The Strategic and Policy Forum was intended to advise Trump on how
government policy impacts economic growth, job creation and
productivity. The manufacturing council was designed to promote U.S. job
"DIVIDE OUR NATION"
Along with the snubs from business leaders, Trump was rebuked by a
string of Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,
Ohio Governor John Kasich, Senator Lindsey Graham and former U.S.
Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Trump needs the support of fellow Republicans as he tries to push his
policy agenda, including tax cuts, through a Congress that is controlled
by the Republicans.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, said Trump would "enflame
emotions and further divide our nation" if he used next week's rally to
pardon Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff who was found guilty last
month of criminal contempt of court.
Arpaio gained a national profile due to his harsh treatment of inmates
and outspoken opposition to illegal immigration.
Shortly after Stanton's statement, Trump urged supporters on Twitter to
attend the Phoenix rally.
Few public figures have voiced support for Trump over his response to
Vice President Mike Pence, who is cutting short a trip to Latin America,
told reporters in Chile that "I stand with the president and I stand by
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke praised Trump's "honesty and
courage," while Richard Spencer, head of a white nationalist group,
lauded the president for "speaking the truth."
U.S. stocks ended slightly firmer but off the day's highs as investors
worried that the backlash to Trump's remarks could stunt his ability to
deliver on pro-business promises.
[to top of second column]
President Donald Trump speaks about the violence, injuries and
deaths at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville as he talks
to the media with Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (R) at his
side in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S.,
August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A former senior Trump administration official raised the prospect
that some White House officials could quit because of Trump's
The demise of the councils raised Wall Street speculation that
senior administration figures, such as White House economic adviser
Gary Cohn or U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, might step down
to avoid being tarnished by association with Trump.
Cohn, Mnuchin and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao stood
awkwardly by Trump during his remarks at Trump Tower on Tuesday.
"He's worried about his reputation being trashed, which is much more
valuable to him than anything else," the former administration
official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of Cohn.
McConnell, who drew Trump's ire last week over the Senate's failure
to pass healthcare legislation, issued a statement saying "messages
of hate and bigotry" from white supremacists should not be welcome
in the United States. McConnell's statement did not mention Trump by
The Republican Jewish Coalition, a group whose board includes big
party donors including casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, called on Trump
to "provide greater moral clarity in rejecting racism, bigotry and
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there is "simply no
place" in American public discourse for the "hate and violence"
displayed in Charlottesville. He spoke before a meeting with
Canada's foreign minister.
'BLAME ON BOTH SIDES'
Trump's remarks on Tuesday were a more vehement reprisal of his
initial response to the bloodshed. He said at a heated news
conference in New York "there is blame on both sides" for the
violence, and that there were "very fine people" on both sides.
In London, British Prime Minister Theresa May offered a rare rebuke
of a U.S. president from so close an ally.
"I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and
those who oppose them and I think it is important for all those in
positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views wherever we
hear them," May told reporters.
Politicians in Germany, which has tough laws against hate speech and
any symbols linked to the Nazis, who murdered six million Jews in
the Holocaust during World War Two, expressed shock at the images of
people in Charlottesville carrying swastikas and chanting
Germany's justice minister accused Trump of trivializing
anti-Semitism and racism.
Senior American military officers usually stay clear of politics but
three more of the U.S. military's top officers weighed in on
Wednesday, without explicitly mentioning Trump.
Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told
reporters in Beijing: "I can absolutely and unambiguously say that
there is no place, no place, for racism and bigotry in the U.S.
military or in the United States as a whole."
U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley wrote on Twitter: "The
Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks.
It's against our Values and everything we've stood for since 1775."
Air Force Chief of Staff General Dave Goldfein said on Twitter that
"I stand with my fellow service chiefs in saying we're always
Their comments followed similar ones from the top officers of the
Navy and Marine Corps.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in WASHINGTON and Michael Erman in
NEW YORK; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in NEW YORK, Susan
Heavey, Steve Holland, Andy Sullivan, Makini Brice and Mohammad
Zargham in WASHINGTON, Lisa Girion in SANTA BARBARA, and Michael
Martina in BEIJING; Writing by Will Dunham and Andy Sullivan;
Editing by Frances Kerry, Howard Goller and Paul Tait)
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