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
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
A White House spokesman declined
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
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.
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
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