Donald Trump was forced to disband two White House business councils disintegrating around him on Wednesday in the wake of his controversial remarks about the weekend violence in Charlottesville.
The Strategic and Policy Forum and the White House Manufacturing Jobs Initiative were both dissolved as corporate leaders continued to resign.
Trump claimed in a tweet that this was his decision, writing: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”
The collapse of the advisory bodies follows seven different corporate leaders stepping down from the two councils in recent days including the CEOs of both Campbell’s Soup and 3M on Wednesday.
Trump had previously stated that resignations from both panels were of no consequence. “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!” he said Trump on Twitter on Tuesday.
Wednesday’s abrupt decision came after Trump confidante Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive of the Blackstone Group, held a conference call for about a dozen members of the strategic and policy forum who decided to abandon it, the New York Times reported. Executives from the manufacturing council had been due to hold a similar call on Wednesday afternoon, the paper added.
On Wednesday, corporate leaders who sat on the councils raced to denounce Trump’s comments about Charlottesville and to support the dissolution of the advisory bodies. Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan and a member of Strategic and Policy Forum, said in a statement: “I strongly disagree with President Trump’s reaction to the events that took place in Charlottesville over the past several days.” He added that he agree with the council’s decision to disband.
Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, who had previously said on Monday that he would not step down from the manufacturing advisory board, put out a statement on Wednesday afternoon announcing that he had resigned earlier in the morning.
Three members of the manufacturing council resigned on Monday after Trump’s initial refusal to condemn the neo-Nazi and white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville by name. Two more followed on Tuesday after Trump defended some of the protestors in a press conference at Trump Tower. The president targeted one of the CEOs, Kenneth Frazier of Merck, in two tweets on Monday, included one where he mentioned Frazier, the lone African American CEO to step down, by name.
“Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” Trump wrote.
Daniel Wessel, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, said: “We commend the leaders who stood for American values and resigned from these councils following Trump’s defense of white supremacists in Charlottesville. These councils disbanded because of Trump’s failure to lead and the public pressure that followed … Trump’s peddling of racist lies has been the final straw that has made the businessman president lose even the support of big business.”
The disbanding of the councils, whose roles were symbolic, came as the White House is preparing an autumn push for tax reform on Capitol Hill after failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Tax reform has long been a major priority of the Trump administration and the dissolution of the councils is unlikely to help the White House’s goals of pressuring Congress to pass a comprehensive bill that would lower corporate tax rates.