Donald Trump, a self-declared businessman, negotiated himself out of even more of his presidential responsibility this afternoon: Following a slew of defections this week, he announced plans (via Twitter, of course) to disband two White House advisory councils composed of top American business leaders.
Truly, the loyalty of remaining CEOs like Michael Dell, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, and Wal-Mart’s Doug McMillon, all of whom opted to remain on the councils on which they served despite mass defections, has been richly rewarded.
Following the deadly attacks in Charlottesville and the president’s refusal to unconditionally denounce literal Nazis, #QuitTheCouncil trended on Twitter, putting pressure on company executives to sever ties with Trump. As a result of public outcry and the president’s own baldly heinous actions, CEOs of Intel, Merck, Campbell’s Soup, 3M, Under Armour, Ford Motor Company, and the president and deputy chief of staff of the AFL-CIO left their seats at Trump’s golden table. Elon Musk of Tesla, Bob Iger of Disney, and former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick all left the President’s Strategy and Policy Forum prior to this weekend’s events.
As reported by the New York Times on Wednesday, the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum held a conference to discuss whether or not to disband itself, the CEOs being unsure of how to respond to the uproar over the president’s equivocation around the violence in Charlottesville. But whatever they had decided was preempted by Trump’s attempt to save face by firing people who had or were likely to quit.
Remaining, however, is a separate advisory council dedicated to advising the president on infrastructure-related issues. But the group has been mired in controversy since its founding. The council is led by two longtime friends of Trump who stand to benefit greatly from their newfound proximity to the White House: They are Steven Roth, the CEO of Vornado Realty Trust, who co-owned a New York department store with Trump in the 1980s, and Richard LeFrak, a billionaire New York real estate developer.
Both Roth and LeFrak were named in a lawsuit late last month filed by an environmental advocacy group which alleges the forum is keeping taxpayers in the dark about the administration’s proposed $1 trillion infrastructure program—a violation, the lawsuit claims, of federal disclosure law.
Update 8/16/17 2:05pm ET: General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt released a statement calling Trump’s statements “deeply troubling” and expressed no confidence in the purpose of the president’s manufacturing council. It claims GE announced its intention to withdraw to other members of the council this morning, prior to Trump’s disbandment of it.
Update 8/16/17 2:27pm ET: According to multiple reports, this morning’s Strategic and Policy Forum conference ended with its members deciding disband. Trump’s Twitter remarks, it seems, were intended to deflect embarrassment by preempting news of the dissolution.
Update 8/17/17 5:04pm ET: Trump is scrapping plans for the aforementioned infrastructure council that would have advised on public works projects, Bloomberg reports. It was still in its formative stages. An official, speaking to CNN, did not give a reason for why the council’s creation has been abandoned.