In a blow to US President’s economic agenda, two key advisory councils aimed at promoting American jobs and manufacturing have been disbanded.
CEOs and business leaders had begun quitting Trump’s councils after he failed to unequivocally condemn white supremacy in America.
Upon his inauguration, Trump instated two advisory panels comprised of some of the most influential business leaders in America. The Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum had members like Pepsi CEO, Indra Nooyi, Disney CEO, Bob Iger and Tesla chief, Elon Musk. The goal behind these councils was to advise and support the administration in creating more jobs for the American public and boosting key industries.
However, companies have found it hard to carry out this agenda against the public backlash that Trump has often incurred. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quit the council early on in February 2017 after the controversial travel ban was announced by the American President. Elon Musk and Bob Iger resigned from their positions when Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
The final straw for most CEOs seemed to be Trump’s response to tragic events that unfolded in Charlottesville, when an alleged white supremacist plowed down a group of protestors with a car, killing one woman. On August 12th and August 13th, multiple white supremacist groups participated in a rally called Unite the Right. Violence broke out between people who showed up to protest the rally and those participating in the rally. In multiple statements after the incident, Trump has seemed hesitant to denounce the hate groups that participated. He has said that there was blame on “both sides,” and noted that there were “fine people” on either side of the event. This has earned rebukes from lawmakers in America and the world.
Ken Frazier, the CEO of Merck was the first to announced his resignation. He was the only African American CEO in the Manufacturing Council. The CEOS of two other companies, Under Armour and Intel also announced that they would be stepping down. The Manufacturing Council was soon hemorrhaging leaders as Scott Paul, the President of Alliance for American Manufacturing and Richard Trumka, the head of American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations also resigned.
According to multiple media reports, members of the Strategy and Policy Forum decided to take a unified approach to addressing the problem. Leaders like Indra Nooyi reportedly got on a conference call and decided that the forum would either have to be disbanded or they would quit en-masse. The leaders then apparently placed a call to White House Senior Advisor, Jared Kushner to announce their decision.
Trump then took to Twitter insinuating that the decision to disband these council was his own noting, “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!"
Many leaders have strongly rebuked the President and have released media statements. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, a member of the Strategy and Policy Forum, said that "fanning divisiveness is not the answer. Constructive economic and regulatory policies are not enough and will not matter if we do not address the divisions in our country. It is a leader's role, in business or government, to bring people together, not tear them apart.”
Our assessment is that this may be Trump’s darkest hour of his Presidency yet. He has incurred criticism from lawmakers, leaders, entrepreneurs, world leaders, prominent personalities and the public. He has, however, been praised by the likes of David Duke, who is the former head of the Klu Klux Klan. Perhaps it is time to re-think his strategy.