In the end, the call came from Stephen Schwarzman. The Blackstone founder has been one of Donald Trump’s closest advisers among the business community this year, speaking regularly on the phone as the new president was trying to find his feet.
But on Wednesday, Mr Schwarzman delivered a very different message to the White House. The chief executives in Mr Trump’s strategy and policy forum, which Mr Schwarzman chaired, were outraged by the president’s comments the day before when he claimed there were some “very fine people” alongside the neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend. As a result, the executives had collectively decided to resign. Many of the executives in Mr Trump’s manufacturing council, his other high-profile body of private sector advisers, had come to the same decision.
In a week of heightened national drama when so many established assumptions about politics have been thrown out, this was one of the most extraordinary moments: corporate America decided that it could not be seen standing alongside a US president — and a Republican president at that.
Their discomfort reflects the central tension that is threatening to tear apart the Trump administration and, with it, potentially the Republican party. Despite the populist tone of his election campaign, Mr Trump has pursued in office an agenda on tax and regulation that is in tune with the wishes of most US companies. However, his open flirtation with the supporters of white nationalism has sparked panic among executives who fear alienating both their customers and their employees.
John Flannery, the new chief…
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