Thursday 22 March 2018

Donald Trump disbands White House business councils amid resignations

Donald Trump has disbanded the two White House advisory panels (AP)
Donald Trump has disbanded the two White House advisory panels (AP)

President Donald Trump has abruptly abolished two White House business councils, the latest fallout from his combative comments on racially charged violence in Charlottesville.

In a face-saving effort, he tweeted from Trump Tower in New York: "Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!"

A growing number of business leaders have been resigning from the advisory panels, openly expressing their displeasure with President Trump's comments, including his insistence that "both sides" were to blame for weekend violence that left one woman dead and led to a helicopter crash that killed two state troopers.

On Wednesday, Denise Morrison, chief executive of Campbell Soup, declared she was leaving President Trump's manufacturing council, saying, "The president should have been - and still needs to be - unambiguous" in denouncing the white supremacists who organised the Charlottesville rally.

CEOs began tendering their resignations from White House councils after President Trump's first comments on Saturday after the violence.

The first to step down, Kenneth Frazier of Merck, drew a Twitter attack from the president.

Then, barely 24 hours before disbanding the councils, President Trump called those who were leaving "grandstanders" and insisted many others were eager to take their places.

Under pressure, President Trump made his condemnation of the Charlottesville violence more specific on Monday, naming white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.

But he returned to his defiant self on Tuesday, effectively erasing the statement he had read a day earlier.

In a raucous press conference in the lobby of his skyscraper, he said there were "some very bad people" among those who gathered to protest on Saturday.

But he added: "You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides."

Publicly criticising the president and resigning from his councils is a significant step for big-name corporate leaders.

Though the policy influence of such advisory groups is sometimes questionable, simply meeting with President Trump with TV cameras going is valuable face-time for the executives - and for the president.

After his latest tweets, President Trump left New York for his New Jersey golf club where he was scheduled to remain out of public view for the rest of the day.

As he navigates this latest controversy, the White House on Wednesday said his long-time aide Hope Hicks would temporarily step into the role of communications director.

Ms Hicks is White House director of strategic communications, and a near-constant presence at the president's side.

She served as spokeswoman for Mr Trump's presidential campaign and worked for years in public relations for the Trump Organisation and his daughter's fashion and lifestyle brand.


Press Association

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