Advisory Groups to Consult on Reopening Economy

Health officials say the U.S. does not yet have needed testing and tracing procedures in place.

President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 14, 2020.
President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 14, 2020.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he's enlisting advisers from nearly all sectors of American commerce, the medical field and elected office to help shape his plans to reopen the coronavirus-battered economy.

The panel of advisers, whom Trump said he will consult by phone, will operate separately from the White House task force that’s leading the administration’s public health strategy to contain and mitigate the pandemic, though there is expected to be some overlap.

The panel, which the White House has dubbed the Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups, includes more than 50 executives and leaders from agricultural, defense and financial service industries, as well as leaders from unions, professional sports, think tanks and more.

The list of executives includes Apple's Tim Cook, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, all individuals with whom Trump has long-standing relationships. Trump also named some individuals who have been critical of him in the past, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban.

Trump added that he would likely announce on Wednesday the names of elected officials, including governors and members of Congress, whom he would also consult.

“I’m confident that these respected people ... will give us some great ideas in addition to what the governors have learned,” Trump said.

Trump has insisted that he has “total” authority to decide how and when to loosen restrictions in the country — although the Constitution largely delegates such matters to the states. The president added on Tuesday that he plans to take action “in conjunction with governors.”

He also signaled that he is ready to push for big swaths of the country to get back to business soon. He noted that some states have been less affected by the virus and will be ready to “open very very shortly, if not, almost immediately.” More than 25,000 Americans have been killed by the virus outbreak.

Before Trump announced the people with whom he'd be consulting, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stressed that the White House needed to make sure to include “voices of working people.” Trumka was among the union officials included on the list.

The global economy is projected to shrink by 3% during 2020, a falloff that would mark the steepest downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, according to the International Monetary Fund.

With the country barreling toward a likely recession ahead of November’s election, Trump is eager to spur an economic revival, hoping to steady financial markets and restore some of the 16 million jobs already lost because of the pandemic. He originally hoped to have the country stirring again by Easter but now wants at least a partial reopening by the end of the month.

Many medical experts in the government, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, have cautioned that easing up on social distancing too soon could lead to a new wave of the disease that would require shuttering the economy again, with disastrous results.

Fauci said Tuesday that the U.S. does not yet have the critical testing and tracing procedures needed to begin reopening the economy.

Some ethics experts and participants in past councils created by Trump voiced concerns that the president may not be open to using the new panel to explore diverse viewpoints and hard truths about the best path forward.

“It doesn’t work if you bring in the hallelujah chorus,” said Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning Washington think tank. Lee served on a short-lived manufacturing council that Trump established early in his presidency.

Among the executives with whom Trump said he will consult are representatives from Cisco Systems, Tyson Foods, Archer Daniels Midland, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, US Bank, Morgan Stanley, Grand Rapids State Bank and Southern Bank Corp.

Trump said he would also consult with union leaders including the International Union of Operating Engineers president James Callahan, North America's Building Trade Unions president Sean McGarvey, International Brotherhood of Teamsters president James Hoffa, and Trumka.

Among the sports world emissaries he said he planned to consult are the WWE's Vince McMahon, NASCAR board chairperson Lesa Kennedy, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

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