Trump disbands advisory councils after chief executive resignations
Departures came after US president blamed ‘both sides’ for Charlottesville violence
Donald Trump, pictured with US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, announced the move on Twitter. Photograph: Getty Images
US president Donald Trump disbanded two high-profile business advisory councils on Wednesday after corporate CEOs quit in protest at his remarks blaming violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, not only on white nationalists but also on the protesters who opposed them.
A parade of prominent Republicans and as well as the UK rebuked Mr Trump after his comments on Tuesday about Saturday’s bloodshed further enveloped his seven-month-old presidency in controversy.
Mr Trump announced the break-up of the advisory councils after 3M Co’s Inge Thulin became the latest of several chief executives to leave his American Manufacturing Council, and the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum broke up of its own will.
“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Ohio governor John Kasich, senator Lindsey Graham, former US presidents George HW Bush and George W Bush and others took aim at the remarks by Mr Trump that worsened deep divisions within a Republican Party that controls both chambers of Congress and the White House.
A former senior Trump administration official raised the prospect that some White House officials could quit because of Mr Trump’s comments. “If you have some high-profile individuals leaving, you may have a whole host of high-profile individuals leaving,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Mr McConnell, who last week drew Mr Trump’s ire over the Senate’s failure to pass healthcare legislation, issued a statement saying “messages of hate and bigotry” from white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups should not be welcome anywhere in the United States.
Mr McConnell’s statement did not mention Mr Trump by name. “We can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred. There are no good neo-Nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head,” Mr McConnell said.
Mr Trump said on Tuesday “there is blame on both sides” of the violence in Charlottesville, and that there were “very fine people” on both sides. Mr Kasich said there was no moral equivalency between the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and anybody else.
“This is terrible. The president of the United States needs to condemn these kind of hate groups,” Mr Kasich said on NBC’s Today show.
Failure to do so gave such organisations a sense of victory and license to hold more events elsewhere, said Mr Kasich, one of Mr Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election.
The former presidents Bush issued a joint statement condemning “racial bigotry, antisemitism and hatred”.
“America must always reject racial bigotry, antisemitism and hatred in all its forms,” the Bushes said in a statement, going on to cite the third US president, Thomas Jefferson, who lived near Charlottesville.
“As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.”
British prime minister Theresa May offered a rare rebuke of Mr Trump by one of the United States’s closest foreign allies. “I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them and I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views wherever we hear them,” Ms May told reporters when asked to comment on Mr Trump’s stance.
US vice-president Mike Pence, who is cutting short a trip to Latin America, said at a news conference in Chile that “I stand with the president and I stand by those words.”