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2017-08-15 18:26:02
Trump Takes Aim at Executives Leaving Presidential Council

President Trump on Tuesday hit back at the executives who have stepped down from his advisory councils.

Speaking at Trump Tower in New York after announcing an infrastructure initiative, Mr. Trump said that the four executives were “not taking their jobs seriously” and suggested they had stepped down from his manufacturing advisory council because they were making products overseas.

“They’re leaving out of embarrassment, because they make their products outside,” Mr. Trump said.

When asked about Merck, the drugmaker whose chief executive, Kenneth C. Frazier, was the first to step down on Monday, Mr. Trump said he had been pressuring executives to return jobs to the United States.

“I’ve been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you’re referring to, about you have to bring it back to this country,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s remarks came as Scott Paul, the president of the American Alliance for Manufacturing, a nonprofit group, said on Twitter that he was stepping down from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative “because it’s the right thing for me to do.”

His departure was the fourth in two days, widening a rift between President Trump and business leaders that has opened in the aftermath of the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va.

The chief executives of Merck, Under Armour and Intel stepped down from the same panel on Monday.

Also on Tuesday, Douglas McMillon, the chief executive of Walmart, made public a message to staff members that was critical of the president.

“As we watched the events and the response from President Trump over the weekend, we too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists,” said Mr. McMillon, who is remaining on an advisory panel. “His remarks today were a step in the right direction and we need that clarity and consistency in the future.”

At Trump Tower, Mr. Trump responded to Mr. McMillon’s statement.

“The head of Walmart — who I know, he is a very nice guy — was making a political statement,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump took office boasting of his business bona fides. The first billionaire chief executive to reside in the White House, he promised to bring boardroom deal making to Washington and surrounded himself with presidential advisory councils stacked with big name C.E.O.s.

But as controversy continues to swirl around the White House, the dozens of executives who agreed to serve on the president’s advisory groups are increasingly finding themselves at the center of unwanted debates. “This should be his strong suit: courting C.E.O.s,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “Instead, Trump finds himself with C.E.O.s not wanting to be in a photo op with the president. What should have been an honor has become an albatross.”

Dozens of executives remain on the various councils, including the leaders of Boeing, Amazon and Oracle. And since taking office, Mr. Trump has met with hundreds of business leaders.

The president’s strategic and advisory forum, a council convened by the private-equity executive Stephen A. Schwarzman at Mr. Trump’s behest, met with much fanfare in both February and early April, with participants like JPMorgan Chase’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, and IBM’s chief, Ginni Rometty, in attendance.

But amid scheduling conflicts and dropouts, no meetings have since occurred. And no meetings of the strategic and advisory forum are scheduled.

For business leaders, the invitation to advise the president is traditionally a coveted distinction. “In general, it’s good for your reputation if the president asks you to serve on one of these councils, regardless of what the administration is doing, ” said Michael Strain, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

But as Mr. Trump continues to rile his critics, the chief executives at his side are facing questions about their support for an administration mired in controversy.

On Monday, other executives said it was important to have a seat at the table. “We believe it continues to be important for Campbell to have a voice and provide input on matters that will affect our industry, our company and our employees in support of growth,” the Campbell Soup Company said in a statement, adding that its chief executive, Denise Morrison, will remain on the manufacturing council.

Dell, the computer maker, said its founder and chief executive, Michael Dell, would continue to advise the president as a way to “share our perspective on policy issues that affect our company, our customers and our employees.”

Those who stepped down spoke in often-personal terms about their motivations. Mr. Krzanich, the chief executive of Intel, was the most forthcoming of the C.E.O.s who have moved away from their advisory roles. In a blog post late on Monday, Mr. Krzanich explained his thinking.

“I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them,” Mr. Krzanich said. “We should honor — not attack — those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values.”

Mr. Plank, the chief executive of Under Armour, spoke of the tension between wanting to engage with decision makers in Washington, but being turned off by excessive politicization. “I joined the American Manufacturing Council because I believed it was important for Under Armour to have an active seat at the table and represent our industry,” he said. “We remain resolute in our potential and ability to improve American manufacturing. However, Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics.”