Trump Fires His Two Business Advisory Councils Before They Quit
On August 16, President Trump made the cowardly decision to disband his two business advisory councils before they could quit on him.
After Trump’s disastrous series of tweets, public statements and press conferences regarding the Charlottesville white supremacist rallies, riots and killing, two highly influential groups of people he had appointed to help him “Make America Great Again” decided they’d had enough.
The fuse that started all this was lit when the President grotesquely mispresented what happened at Charlottesville on August 11 and 12. Everything from getting the basic facts right (like saying that both of the groups he talked about actually had permits for their protests) to his unforgiveable voice of support for the white supremacists, neo-nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan to his bullying of the press and virtually anyone who saw things differently than he did was out of line, factually wrong and – to many – a demonstration of a President who had become unstable in the face of a crisis. It was also a crisis that many felt had such an obvious answer – a “soft lob” as one news commentator put it – for what the President should have done.
Instead of sympathizing with and offering help to those who had been hurt and the mother of the woman who had been killed, or condemning the actions of the white supremacists behind the violence and the car-ramming as acts of domestic terrorism, Trump choked. He instead spent the next several days trying to do what he clearly saw as setting the record straight (in his mind, anyway), saying that some “very fine people” were among the white supremacist marchers and that there were guilty people “on both sides.”
When criticism blew up after his first statements about this, on August 12, someone clearly convinced Trump that maybe he needed to reconsider things, and the next time he went on the air, he was reading a statement condemning the white supremacist radicals – from a teleprompter. Even then, just by watching his face, one could see he was struggling to read those words, presumably because he did not believe in them. He came back two days later with a press conference that was intended to focus on a new infrastructure plan but deteriorated rapidly into a complete repudiation of what he had just said in the previous public statement. He also lost his temper, repeated things that were completely untrue and doubled down on his support for the white supremacists.
In the face of all this, two of what Trump seemed to have felt were his most important advisory groups – his American Manufacturing Council and his Strategy and Policy Forum – began to go into meltdown.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, the only African-american on the Manufacturing Council, was the first to announce he was resigning, on Monday, August 14.
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank also resigned from the
Manufacturing Council on August 14, but he soft-pedaled his announcement by saying that his company “engages in innovation and sports, not politics.” His departure, while yet another critical loss for Trump, was seen as more about expediency than anything else because his company had already been in trouble for some time, since Plank had declared that Trump was “a real asset for the country.” That statement launched a nationwide boycott of the company’s products, in protest of the position at the time.
Intel’s CEO also announced his resignation from the council around the same time.
President Trump was defiant then, calling those who had resigned from the Manufacturing Council “grandstanders” and saying “for every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place.”
Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison, under pressure from the public, with social media labeling her as the “Soup Nazi” with “Cream of Complicity” as one of her company’s products, left the council before the fateful explosive Tuesday Presidential press conference.
Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky, who on Tuesday had said he planned to stay on with the council, changed his mind quickly as he, too, began feeling pressure. He resigned the next day, declaring “the President’s most recent statements equating those who are motivated by race-based hate with those who stand up against hatred are unacceptable and have changed our decision to participate in the White House Manufacturing Advisory Council.”
Separately, the President’s Strategy and Policy Forum was meeting quietly to discuss what to do in response to Trump’s positions. Multiple resignations were anticipated from that group as well, but for them as well as those expected from the members left on the Manufacturing Council, the President apparently realized he was facing yet another public relations disaster. He disbanded both councils before they could have a chance to publicly snub him further, something it was becoming clear the Strategy and Policy Forum members had been planning to do as a group.
The damage was already done to what Trump had been attempting to accomplish: show that he alone could build a unique public-private alliance of corporations to help transform the country.
As former Strategy and Policy Forum member Jamie Dimon, CEO of Jpmorgan, said in a statement released after his group was dismissed, “There is no room for equivocation here: The evil on display by these perpetrators of hate should be condemned and has no place in a country that draws strength from our diversity and humanity.”
Further statements appeared soon after from Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and many others across the country, attacking Trump’s stand. It is doubtful that Trump will be given another chance to pull any of these leaders together again to help him out in the future.