President Donald Trump convened with the heads of some of America’s largest corporations on Friday at the White House for a meeting intended to make good on the administration’s pledge to reduce regulation, promote women in the workplace, and cut taxes.
Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, told CNBC it had been a "fabulous meeting" and said the president "engaged forcefully" on every topic.
Steve Schwarzman, CEO of private equity firm Blackstone and chairman of the council that arranged Friday's meeting, said the session had been “spirited intellectually” and that the members had had a “balanced discussion” about "taxes, trade, infrastructure, women's issues, education, and how to bring home jobs in terms of training people in technology."
Other attendees at Friday’s business huddle included members of Trump’s economic advisory council, such as JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, Walt Disney’s Bob Iger, Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon, and Mary Barra of General Motors.
The meeting also included First Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the president; as well as Vice President Mike Pence and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.
One notable absentee was Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who resigned from his spot on the president’s council Thursday amid fierce backlash from customers furious at Kalanick's seeming connection to Trump's controversial immigration ban that limits travel to America from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Kalanick said Thursday that his participation on Trump’s council was not meant to be construed as any endorsement of Trump’s policies.
However, billionaire inventor and environmentalist Elon Musk, also heavily criticized for his position on the board due to seemingly contradictory stances with Trump, has not shied away from his role. In contrast to Kalanick, Musk tweeted a message on Thursday explaining that he was remaining on the board in order to “serve the greater good.”
Corporate America is struggling to please an increasing divide: Customers and investors who oppose Trump's hard-line policies, and those who applaud his strong-arm techniques. And many business leaders on the president's council are stuck between a rock and a hard place as they seek to advise — or at least appease — the president while remaining firm on their own values and satisfying those of their client base.
Trump has already called out several major companies via Twitter, including General Motors, L.L. Bean, and Ford. In December, he tweeted, "Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!" Following his tweet, Boeing stocks slid by more than 1 percent in premarket trade.