Posted on August 18, 2017

Third White House Panel Scrapped Amid Trump-Charlottesville Controversy

Jon Swaine, The Guardian, August 17, 2017

A third White House panel of business leaders is to be scrapped amid the controversy over Donald Trump’s response to neo-Nazi violence in Virginia, the Guardian has learned.

Trump’s presidential advisory council on infrastructure will disband along with the two panels that Trump rushed to dissolve on Wednesday when faced with mass resignations of chief executives from some of America’s biggest companies.

News of the panel being scrapped was leaked to Bloomberg News on Thursday after the Guardian approached the White House for comment.

A White House spokesperson later confirmed in an email: “The president has announced the end of the manufacturing council and the strategy and policy forum. In addition, the president’s advisory council on infrastructure, which was still being formed, will not move forward.”

The president only formally established the infrastructure council by an executive order on 19 July, but had asked the New York property developers Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth to lead the panel in the days before his inauguration in January.

Two private equity executives, William Ford of General Atlantic and Joshua Harris of Apollo Global Management, were reported last month to have joined the council, which was to advise Trump on shaping a $1tn infrastructure plan that he proposed during his campaign for president. But most seats remained unfilled.

Trump on Wednesday hurriedly announced the dissolution of his manufacturing council and his strategic and policy forum. Seven members of the manufacturing group had already publicly resigned and the strategy panel was reported to be on the verge of disbanding itself.

The resignations were largely prompted by Trump defending far-right marchers who violently attacked antifascist counter-protesters during demonstrations in Charlottesville on Saturday. One neo-Nazi marcher was charged with murder after allegedly driving a car that crashed into protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman.

Following the collapse of Trump’s other two White House advisory panels, LeFrak, Roth, Ford and Harris did not respond to repeated requests by email and telephone for confirmation on whether or not they intended to remain on the president’s infrastructure council.

A source close to LeFrak tried to distance him from the aborted project altogether. “Nobody has been formally named to the panel,” said the source, who insisted on anonymity to discuss interactions with the White House.

Two other people who were previously connected to the panel also stressed to the Guardian that they were not full council members who reported to Trump.

Tyler Duvall, a partner at the management consultancy McKinsey & Co, and Lynn Scarlett, managing director of the Nature Conservancy, met council members and Trump for an infrastructure meeting at the White House in March.

“I was invited to give a presentation on infrastructure and environment,” Scarlett said in an email. “But that was as an invited speaker, not as a member of any council.”

A McKinsey source said: “Tyler was never a member of the president’s infrastructure council.”