Trump disbands 2 business panels after exodus of CEOs

19 Aug 2017


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.

Two days after the start of an exodus of business executives from the advisory panels that led to the disbanding, Greg Hayes, chief executive of United Technologies Corp, said on Wednesday he, too, would quit a manufacturing council of top corporate leaders.

The abrupt statement from Hayes on Twitter followed by just minutes an announcement tweeted by Trump that he disbanded the councils in response to the departures of the other executives.

The uproar from business leaders came after what they said was the president's inadequate response to the weekend violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

A parade of prominent Republicans as well as US ally Britain, also rebuked Trump, leaving him increasingly isolated after his comments on Tuesday about the bloodshed in the college town further enveloped his seven-month-old presidency in controversy.

A memorial service was held on Wednesday in Charlottesville for 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car ploughed into anti-racism protesters on Saturday. A 20-year-old Ohio man said to have harboured Nazi sympathies has been charged with her murder.

Trump said he would dissolve the American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum after eight executives, including Campbell Soup Co chief executive Denise Morrison and 3M Co chief 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 chief executive 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 in Charlottesville."

JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive 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 productive discussions".

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 US job growth.

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 US 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.

In London, British Prime Minister Theresa May offered a rare rebuke of a US 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.

Senior American military officers usually stay clear of politics but three more of the US military's top officers weighed in on Wednesday, without explicitly mentioning Trump.

Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the US 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 US military or in the United States as a whole."

US 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 stronger together."

Their comments followed similar ones from the top officers of the Navy and Marine Corps.

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