Trump Announces His ‘Opening the Country’ Council

Trump Announces His ‘Opening the Country’ Council

WASHINGTON — President Trump stood in the Rose Garden on Tuesday evening and recited a list of dozens of prominent business and labor leaders who he said would be advising him in deciding when and how to reopen the country’s economy, even as governors made it clear they will decide on their own when and how to reopen their states.

The president’s announcement came after days of confusion about the makeup of what Mr. Trump has described as his “Opening the Country” council. Some business leaders were hesitant to sign on and to have to defend Mr. Trump’s actions and risk damaging their brands, people with knowledge of the process said.

Among those Mr. Trump said he had plans to speak with were some of the most prominent names of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Those included Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase; Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of Blackstone; Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple; and Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, who he implied would be acting as consultants to his administration.

He described them as the leaders of “companies that no other country will catch, if they’re smart” and suggested they were taking on formal roles advising his administration.

He also said he would be speaking with sports franchise owners like Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, and sport industry leaders like Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association. “I’m tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old,” he said. “But I haven’t actually had too much time to watch.”

Mr. Trump was vague about whether those on his list had all agreed to serve on the task force his administration has been struggling to put together over the past week. Some business leaders have been hesitant to attach their names to it in the middle of intense discussions in the White House about who would serve on a formal council, and what its mandate would be.

It was also not clear if all of the companies and executives Mr. Trump mentioned had been asked in advance if they would serve in advisory roles to the White House. At least one person on the president’s list, who asked not to be identified for fear of angering the White House, said that no request had been made to join the list and that there had been no advance notice of an announcement.

Later, the White House sent out a news release outlining names that would serve in 17 “Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups,” which it said would work with it “to chart the path forward toward a future of unparalleled American prosperity.”

The list included two surprising names that Mr. Tump did not mention during his news conference on Tuesday: Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder who owns The Washington Post and who has been singled out for criticism throughout his administration, and Mark Cuban, the billionaire entrepreneur and outspoken Trump critic. It also included two friends of Mr. Trump — Micky Arison, a top executive at Carnival Cruises, and Phil Ruffin, a Las Vegas casino owner.

Other names Mr. Trump read off during his evening news briefing, in seemingly no particular order, were Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, whom he described as “another great person”; Scott Gottlieb, his former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; and Jim DeMint, the former senator and president of the Heritage Foundation whom Mr. Trump described as “a terrific friend.”

“Those are the names we have on our list,” Mr. Trump said. “The names that are, I think, the best and the smartest, the brightest, and they’re going to give us some ideas.”

When it came to reopening, he said, “it will be at a time that will be earlier than the deadline that we imposed, the end of April.” He added, “We think some of the governors will be in really good shape to open up even sooner than that.”

Mr. Trump said he expected that “the governors will be very, very respectful of the presidency.” He added: “Again, this isn’t me, this is the presidency. The presidency has such a great importance.”

In his public comments, Mr. Trump has toggled between saying he wants to reinforce social distancing measures that the administration’s health experts say are flattening the curve of the virus’s spread, and showing his impatience with having to wait out the effect those measures have had on the economy.

About 17 million people have filed unemployment claims in recent weeks as businesses have closed or shed payroll, and the financial markets remain down compared with last year.

The president has heard from allies outside the administration, and some of his own advisers, that the damage the social distancing measures are causing to the economy outweigh the health benefits of sticking with them.

He is also facing pressure from some conservative allies to avoid another expensive stimulus package.

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