And then there were 16: Iger, Musk Quit Trump Advisory Council

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has left President Trump’s economic advisory council.

So much for reaching out to the tech industry. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Tesla CEO Elon Musk were both late additions to Donald Trump’s economic advisory council amid criticism it was light on Silicon Valley representation.

Now, both men have quit, leaving IBM CEO Ginni Rometty as the last tech representative in the group, which now has 16 CEOs instead of its original 19.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has left, too, having already missed the council’s first meeting, though he said at the time he had other important work to do.

Musk and Iger’s departures symbolize the immense disappointment felt by many business leaders over the president’s decision to take the U.S out of Paris Accord on climate change. They also show that despite having met with dozens of CEOs at a string of summits, Trump isn’t beholden to their advice.

“Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world.” Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein

Both men’s U-turns are all the more significant in light of their previous explanations for staying in the tent. When Kalanick quit back in February, Musk resisted calls to follow him out the door, stating: “I understand the perspective of those who object to my attending this meeting, but I believe at this time that engaging on critical issues will on balance serve the greater good.”

By yesterday he had changed his tune: “Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” Musk wrote on Twitter.

In March, Iger even referenced a song from the musical “Hamilton” called “The Room where it Happens” to justify his continued inclusion in the group. But by yesterday, he said on Twitter: “As a matter of principle, I’ve resigned from the President’s Council over the #ParisAgreement withdrawal.”

GE CEO Jeffery Immelt, who sits on the president’s separate manufacturing council, also expressed disappointment, but didn’t suggest ending his participation role in Washington.

Of course, Musk is heavily invested in renewable energy. GE, too, despite supplying coal-fired power stations, is also one of the world’s biggest suppliers of wind turbines. Iger is a registered Democrat rumored as a possible presidential candidate in 2020.

Many other CEOs, however, including the heads of major fossil fuel companies such as Exxon, Shell and BP, had also urged the president to stay in the 2015 pact, which had been signed by almost 200 countries.

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein criticism of the withdrawal came in the form of his first ever tweet. “Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world. #ParisAgreement,” Blankfein wrote.

The heads of Apple and Salesforce were among others to release statements yesterday criticizing the president’s decision. And another remaining member of his main advisory council, JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, had signed a CEO letter to Trump urging him not to quit the pact.

Dimon, however, continued to stick to Musk’s now-abandoned approach. “I absolutely disagree with the administration on this issue. But we have a responsibility to engage our elected officials to work constructively and advocate for policies that improve people’s lives and protect our environment,” he said in a statement.

As reported by Chief Executive, there were growing signs that Trump was increasingly starting to listen to the advice he’d received from CEOs with regards to trade policy.

Thursday’s decision shows that when it comes to the crunch, it’s the president’s America-first voter base who will come out on top.

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Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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