Trump disbands economic councils as CEOs flee

President Donald Trump on Wednesday disbanded two of his economic councils after a wave of defections from high-profile CEOs.

"Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!" Trump wrote in a tweet disbanding his Manufacturing Advisory Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum. Both councils were already facing the loss of multiple members.

ADVERTISEMENT

In all, 11 business leaders and CEOs have quit Trump's councils, eight of them this week alone in response to his controversial comments on race and white supremacy.

Trump's decision to disband the councils is a surprising retreat for the combative president, who has touted his business acumen, negotiating skills and economic policy as central strengths.

Trump reveled in photo ops with the nation's top executives, and has promised major advances in the country's economic output, manufacturing and infrastructure.

He followed his Twitter announcement that the councils were disbanding by retweeting a financial commentator saying, "President TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE alone has succeeded in bringing the Stock Market, Small Business Index and Consumer Comfort to ALL TIME HIGHS!"

But the controversy that plagues the president proved too much for some in business leadership, who have carefully cultivated images as socially conscious leaders trying to make the world a better place through corporate positions.

Early on in Trump’s presidency, then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick became embroiled in a controversy over Trump's travel ban, and promptly quit the Strategy and Policy Forum. In June, when Trump announced that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, Tesla CEO Elon Musk dropped out of both councils, and Disney's Bob Iger left his spot at the strategic forum.

The troubles accelerated following Saturday, when Trump equivocated on violence in Charlottesville, Va., without condemning white supremacist groups as the catalyst for clashes between protest groups that ultimately left three dead and multiple people injured.

On Monday and Tuesday, days in which Trump came out with a harsh statement on racism and then seemingly backtracked, six business leaders resigned from his Manufacturing Advisory Council: Merck & Co. CEO Kenneth Frazier, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Under Armour’s Kevin Plank, Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and economist Thea Lee, formerly of the AFL-CIO.

On Monday, Trump insisted in a Tweet that, "For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place."

Trump's Wednesday decision to disband the boards came shortly after two more CEO resignations by Inge Thulin, 3M's chairman of the board, president and CEO, and Campbell's CEO Denise Morrison.

"Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville," Morrison said in a statement, an apparent allusion to Trump's comment that "many sides" were responsible for the Charlottesville rally violence.

The members of the Strategic and Policy forum also commented on the role of "intolerance, racism and violence" in their statement ending the forum.

The increased friction with powerful voices in the business community will be a stumbling block for Trump's economic agenda.

The latest Charlottesville comments came during a press conference that was supposed to push forward Trump's infrastructure plan, one of his key campaign platforms and an important issue for businesses.

Trump's administration is also hoping to pass a sweeping tax reform overhaul in the autumn, which would benefit from unified support among the nation's top executives.

- This report was updated at 3 p.m.