Trump Turns to CEOs as Pro-Growth Agenda Seen Wavering

Donald Trump has held yet another forum with business leaders to talk about cutting regulations and investing in infrastructure, providing relief to some CEOs concerned recent controversies around Russia would distract the president from his economic plan.

Although Trump didn’t offer much in the way of policy specifics and timing, Tuesday’ upbeat town-hall style meeting struck a positive tone with attendees previously accustomed to weathering a storm of criticism over their trading practices or the cost of their products.

The event was the next in a long line of CEO summits that increasingly appear to be providing a sanctuary for the former businessman, as he grapples with a policy setback on healthcare reform, investigations into his campaign team’s dealings with Russia and low opinion-poll ratings.

Trump reiterated his pledge to target the Dodd-Frank rules imposed on banks by the Obama administration in the wake of the financial crisis, saying he’d give them a “major haircut”. He also said the administration was poised to simplify development permitting processes and announce a major infrastructure investment program, though details of how it will be funded remained unclear.

“IF YOU HAVE A JOB THAT YOU CAN’T START WITHIN 90 DAYS, WE’RE NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU MONEY FOR IT.”

“We’re talking about a very major infrastructure bill of a trillion dollars, perhaps even more,” the president told the room, which was filled with 52 CEOs and other senior executives from companies including Citigroup, GE, NYSE and JetBlue.

Trump indicated that projects must be ready to roll if they’re to attract any funding support. “If you have a job that you can’t start within 90 days, we’re not going to give you money for it,” he said.

Other White House officials in the room spoke of overhauling air traffic control systems to cut flight times, upgrading the nation’s electricity grid and encouraging businesses to promote job training.

Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, who chairs Trump’s economic advisory council, told attendees the general public may not have fully grasped the positive aspects of the president’s vision.

“It’s terrific in terms of the stuff you’re trying to do to modernize the government, educate and so forth,” he said. “The outside world doesn’t always get the message that that’s really what is going on.”

Another attendee, NYSE President Thomas Farley, said his concerns about the president getting distracted eased “quite a bit” following his performance at the meeting. “The president was on message, wanting to signal his business friendly stance,” Farley told Fox Business afterward.

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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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