Business councils disband over Trump remarks

President Trump has said he is scrapping two business councils after more bosses quit over his handling of violent clashes in Virginia.

Business leaders left the White House manufacturing Council after the backlash against how he reacted to the far-right rally last weekend.

The clashes culminated in a woman’s death and nearly 20 wounded when a car ploughed into a crowd of anti-fascists.

Trump’s reaction has sparked outrage and generated global headlines.

His announcement on Twitter came as the heads of 3M, Campbell Soup, Johnson & Johnson, and United Technologies announced their resignations on Wednesday.

Trump said: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both.”

Before Trump’s announcement, the Strategy and Policy Forum announced it was a joint decision to disband the council.

Businesses have been under pressure to distance themselves from Trump over his handling of the clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

On Monday, Trump belatedly condemned the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups that rallied in small Virginia town on Sunday.

But in a rancorous news conference on Tuesday, he backtracked and again blamed left-wing counter-protesters for the violence too.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, a member of the Strategy and Policy Forum, released a separate statement on Wednesday saying he strongly disagreed with Trump’s recent statements, adding 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,” he said.

Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup Co said she could not continue to participate in the advisory panel after Trump’s comments. Activists had called on Campbell Soup, among other firms, to take action.

The calculus for business leaders working with the Trump administration has changed quickly.

After the Charlottesville violence, Ken Frazier of Merck abandoned the president’s manufacturing council and quickly drew the president’s Twitter ire.

At that point there was some media speculation – through unnamed “corporate leaders” – that the wise move would be to wait out the storm rather than pick a fight with the president.

Companies like Boeing and General Motors had tangled with the president in the past, and they (and their stock prices) generally ended up the worse for it.

This time was different. As more corporate chiefs headed to the exit, the riskier move – from a business as well as political perspective – became staying put. The president, despite further tweets and verbal swipes, was unable to staunch the bleeding. His rhetorical gymnastics on the Charlottesville situation only made matters worse.

In the corporate world, there’s always talk of “leading indicators” – tell-tale signs that help predict what’s to come.

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