NEW YORK – The relationship between corporate America and Donald Trump’s White House has chilled.
The regular parades of business titans into the West Wing are gone. A gathering of executives led by Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman initially planned for next week fell apart amid scheduling conflicts. Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger quit as outside advisers to President Donald Trump following his rejection of the Paris climate accords. Dozens of other executives also publicly rebuked the White House over the decision, including Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein—a former colleague of many top administration officials—used his first-ever tweet to criticize the Paris decision, calling it a “setback for the environment and for the U.S.'s leadership position in the world.”
Chief executives and senior corporate lobbyists are also dismayed that the administration’s big Capitol Hill agenda – including repealing Obamacare and passing massive tax cuts – appears stalled. And the White House is now engaged in a very public fight with itself over how and when to raise the debt limit, a terrifying prospect for Wall Street and the rest of corporate America.
Executives also remain puzzled by regular reports of imminent shakeups in the West Wing, including the possible replacement of chief of staff Reince Priebus.
The result is at least a temporary freeze as CEOs grow skittish about public association with a leader who likes to describe himself as the most business-friendly president to ever sit in the Oval Office. This is especially true for executives at big public companies, who have to take into account how both employees and shareholders will respond to interactions with an unpopular and controversial president.