President Donald Trump says he’s disbanding two of his business advisory councils, focusing on manufacturing as well as strategy and policy.
The move comes amid a wave of criticism and resignations sparked by last weekend’s deadly violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
The Strategic and Policy Forum reportedly decided to disband today even before Trump’s announcement, which was issued via Twitter:
Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017
Some of the business leaders told CNBC that Trump’s heated remarks on Tuesday sparked such an outcry from employees and customers that they had little choice but to dissolve the council.
“There really was nothing to debate,” one unnamed member told CNBC.
Former Boeing CEO Jim McNerney was among the members of the forum, which was headed by Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman. Other CEOs represented such firms as IBM, GM, Walmart and Pepsico.
The Manufacturing Council was a separate group, focusing on strategies to boost American manufacturing and create jobs in the process.
Several members resigned from that panel in protest after Trump issued what many thought was an unacceptable response to the Charlottesville incident, which featured marches by white nationalists brandishing torches, a helicopter crash in which two state troopers died, and a vehicular attack that killed one counterprotester and injured 19 others.
The first to resign were Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Still more resignations were being announced this morning, even as Trump decided to throw in the towel.
The remaining members of the Manufacturing Council included Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell.
Trump’s tweet didn’t address the fate of the American Technology Council, which is chaired by the president and consists of officials from various government agencies.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Apple CEO Tim Cook were among the executives who attended a meeting of the council in June. No outside executives are official members of the council, however, and no further meetings with tech leaders have been scheduled.
Nadella wrote a memo to Microsoft employees following the events in Charlottesville, saying in part, “There is no place in our society for the bias, bigotry and senseless violence we witnessed this weekend in Virginia provoked by white nationalists.”
The tech council has former Microsoft chief financial officer Chris Liddell as its director. Liddell works with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is a senior adviser to the president and heads the White House Office of American Innovation.
GeekWire has contacted Microsoft, Amazon and Apple to find out about their CEOs’ intentions regarding future involvement with tech council meetings. We’ll update this item with anything we hear back.
Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, may now be seen as a “canary in the coal mine” for business involvement with the White House. He was tapped as a tech adviser as well as a member of the Manufacturing Council, the Strategic and Policy Forum and a separate panel on infrastructure.
In June, Musk announced that he was leaving all of the White House councils because he disagreed with Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.