Fallout from President Donald Trump's response to the Charlottesville, Virginia, violence Wednesday cost the White House two key economic advisory councils made up of the nation's top CEOs and business leaders.
Trump announced via Twitter that he was ending both the American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum, rather than “put pressure” on the leaders involved in both councils.
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
The development deals a major blow to the president's signature initiatives to create jobs, and to his claim of harnessing the best and brightest of America's business leaders to get it done.
Just 24 hours earlier, as more business leaders stepped down from Trump’s manufacturing council, the president remained bullish and said he had many candidates to replace those who had left.
For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2017
But, on a conference call convened shortly after 11:30 a.m. ET, members of the president's Strategic and Policy Forum -- formed in December 2016 and loosely known as the "CEO council" -- agreed to disband amidst growing concerns following Trump's statements on Charlottesville in recent days, sources familiar with the call told ABC News.
News of the move broke publicly around 12:50 pm ET. A source close to the forum said the panel had informed the White House of its decision to disband before 1 p.m. ET.
Following Trump's press conference Tuesday, all the CEOs on the forum were invited to a mandatory phone call Tuesday night to discuss the panel’s future, and the discussion led to many wanting to quit, according to sources familiar with the call. The group unanimously voted to end the panel then.
The panel, chaired by Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, released a statement around 1.40 p.m. ET Wednesday on its decision.
“As our members have expressed individually over the past several days, intolerance, racism and violence have absolutely no place in this country and are an affront to core American values,” the statement read.
The forum, a bipartisan group of business leaders, stressed that they were “called to serve [the U.S.] to “provide independent feedback and perspectives directly to the President” on economic growth and job creation in the U.S.
“We believe the debate over Forum participation has become a distraction from our well-intentioned and sincere desire to aid vital policy discussions on how to improve the lives of everyday Americans ... as Americans, we are all united in our desire to see our country succeed,” the statement added.
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, a key member of the group whom Trump once called a “good guy” in 2012, sent a separate statement to employees, stating that he “strongly disagreed with Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville” and that “there is no room for equivocation here: The evil on display by these perpetrators of hate should be condemned.”
“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,” Dimon added.
Members had floated the idea of asking Trump to dissolve the panel weeks before Charlottesville, sources close to the call said.
The panel's dismantlement didn't come as a surprise as many had voiced privately to each other their concerns to stay on board after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord on June 1 and announced a transgender military ban on July 26, sources close to the call said. Members felt pressure to step down from employees and customers, and were anxious about being regarded as supportive of the policies Trump had signed on due to their panel positions, according to the sources.
The council had only met two times in the past eight months, and members felt they weren't achieving much.
At the same time, the president’s manufacturing council suffered a continuous stream of defections from CEOs and business leaders following Trump's remarks Saturday.
Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison, 3M CEO Inge Thulin and GE CEO Jeff Immelt all abruptly resigned before noon ET today, joining six other members who had resigned in the wake of Trump’s Charlottesville response.
Morrison said she believes Trump “should have been-and still needs to be-unambiguous” on white supremacy in Saturday’s violent rally.
Merck’s CEO Kenneth Frazier led the stream of resignations on Monday, saying in a statement that as a "matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism."
The American Manufacturing Council has not yet issued a statement following the president’s tweet Wednesday.
However, more resignations came on the heels of Trump’s “blame on both sides” comment Tuesday, when the president lashed out at Trump Tower, attacking the "alt-left" and saying that there were “fine people” among both the protesters and counterprotesters in Charlottesville.