Trump business council disbands in protest over Charlottesville comments; Update: Trump disbands manufacturing council

This council, the Strategy and Policy Forum, isn’t the manufacturing council, which I wrote about yesterday and which has also seen several resignations since Saturday. It was inevitable that some members would walk away from the SPF too, but the fact that the group is headed by “one of Mr. Trump’s closest confidants in the business community” made it an unlikely candidate for total dissolution.

But then came yesterday’s presser. And now the council has been blown up.

“The thinking was it was important to do as a group,” a member told CNBC. “As a panel, not as individuals because it would have more significant impact. It makes a central point that it’s not going to go forward. It’s done.”

The Strategic and Policy Forum, led by Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, featured JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon and BlackRock’s Larry Fink, among other business notables.

Doing it as a group has more impact but it also spreads the blame, of course. Sixteen different companies now get to hide in a crowd in case any right-wing boycott movement gets rolling. As for the manufacturing council, that may not last much longer either. The Times reports that the remaining members are holding a conference call this afternoon; obviously they’ll be under heavy pressure to follow the lead of the SPF and dissolve altogether. That hasn’t stopped the individual defections from coming, though. The latest, both within the past hour, are the heads of Campbell Soup and 3M. The Campbell’s statement was especially blunt:

“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,” Morrison said in a statement. “I believe the President should have been – and still needs to be – unambiguous on that point.”

“Following yesterday’s remarks from the President, I cannot remain on the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. I will continue to support all efforts to spur economic growth and advocate for the values that have always made America great.”

I’m expecting a presidential tweet at any moment: “Campbell’s soup tastes like sweat and ass. WEAK PRODUCT.” Incidentally, it’s not just corporate members of White House advisory boards who are taking him to task. Doug McMillon, the CEO of Wal-Mart, put out a statement Monday, before yesterday’s Trump press conference, calling him out directly: “As we watched the events and the response from President Trump over the weekend, we too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists. His remarks today were a step in the right direction and we need that clarity and consistency in the future.” I’m guessing McMillon didn’t like yesterday’s “alt-left” reprise.

Matter of time before the fate of the manufacturing council is decided. Remember, with health-care reform in limbo, Trump and the GOP have tax reform and infrastructure momentarily as their highest legislative priorities — two policy areas on which corporate input might be useful. And yet here we are.

Update: That was fast. You can’t quit, says the president. You’re fired!

Yesterday he taunted Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier that anyone who quits the council could be easily replaced. Today he’s liquidating the council entirely. Why not invite small business leaders to fill the seats vacated by corporate titans? Or are there none who would risk it at this point?

He hasn’t lost anyone inside the administration yet, but stay tuned. Mike Pence is reportedly ending his international trip early and returning home tomorrow. What’s that all about? All-hands-on-deck crisis meeting?

David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022