Pressure's off Dimon as Trump business councils disband

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Two advisory groups of American business leaders are disbanding, after CEOs quit this week as President Trump faced blowback for failing to sufficiently condemn white supremacists.

The decision will take the heat off Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, who served on President Trump's strategic and policy forum and had drawn criticism during the year for sticking with it despite numerous White House controversies.

Trump announced the dissolution on Twitter, less than an hour after one of the groups was said to be planning to inform the White House that it would disband.

“Rather than putting pressure on the business people of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” Trump said on Twitter.

His remarks were a reversal of what he said a day before, when he tweeted that he had plenty of CEOs who wanted to be on the panels to replace those who quit, and called the CEOs who left “grandstanders.”

The executive council, which is led by Blackstone Group LP’s Stephen Schwarzman, planned to inform the White House Wednesday before making the announcement public, according to a person familiar with the matter, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the news publicly.

Dimon had remained on President Trump’s strategic and policy forum amid repeated controversy all year. He had said previously that while he disagrees with the president from time to time, he views his service on the council as a patriotic duty.

The banker took steps to distance himself from some of the president’s most controversial positions. He disagreed with Trump's decision to exit the Paris climate accord and was one of several CEOs who criticized the White House’s proposed immigration ban on Muslim-majority countries.

On Wednesday, Dimon released a statement saying he "strongly" disagrees with Trump's "reaction to the events that took place in Charlottesville over the past several days."

"Racism, intolerance and violence are always wrong," Dimon said. "The equal treatment of all people is one of our nation's bedrock principles. There is no room for equivocation here: the evil on display by these perpetrators of hate should be condemned and has no place in a country that draws strength from our diversity and humanity."

In the statement, Dimon confirmed press accounts that the policy forum had already agreed to disband prior to Trump's action. Dimon made it clear he supported disbanding the council.

"Fanning divisiveness is not the answer," Dimon said. "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."

The strategy group is one of several the White House convened earlier this year to advise the president. Several CEOs from a manufacturing council quit this week, following blowback over Trump’s remarks about racially charged violence in Virginia on Saturday.

Pressure to leave the groups has built following a press conference Trump held in New York Tuesday where he placed partial blame for the weekend violence on demonstrators protesting a gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville. A woman was killed during the event after a man rammed a car into a crowd.

While more than half a dozen CEOs have quit a manufacturing CEO group, others have said they wanted to stay on the panels in order to influence White House policy.

The manufacturing council hasn’t met since February. The CEOs of Under Armour, Intel and Merck quit earlier this week. And on Wednesday, Inge Thulin, CEO of 3M left, as did Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison.

“Following yesterday’s remarks from the president, I cannot remain on the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative,” Morrison said in a statement. “I will continue to support all efforts to spur economic growth and advocate for the values that have always made America great.”

Bloomberg News
Law and regulation Donald Trump Jamie Dimon JPMorgan Chase