Trump Promises U.S. Will Do 'Whatever is Necessary' to Help Boeing After It Says It's Exploring Laying Off 10 Percent of Workforce

Grounded 737 Max Airplanes at Boeing
Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are stored on employee parking lots near Boeing Field, on June 27, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Stephen Brashear/Getty

President Trump said his administration would take action to help Boeing if company executives request assistance in coping with the financial downturn caused by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

Administration officials would meet with Boeing executives during an upcoming meeting with airline industry officials, he said Friday while responding to reporters' questions during the White House Coronavirus Task Force's daily briefing.

"We're going to be meeting with Boeing, we're going to be meeting with a lot of companies that are great companies and were great companies a short while ago," Trump said.

The president also said that the U.S. "can't let anything happen to Boeing."

"It's, you know, got so much potential," he said.

The Treasury Department set aside up to $17 billion in aid for Boeing as part of the airline industry rescue package lawmakers included in the CARES Act, the $2 trillion stimulus legislation that Trump recently signed into law. But the aerospace giant has not yet formally requested any of the aid available to it, and according to reports, is still considering laying off up to 10 percent of its workforce due to the downturn caused by the coronavirus-related recession.

Trump sidestepped a question about whether the aerospace company could be penalized for laying off its workforce after receiving the aid.

Instead, he said Friday that the company's planes are now allegedly so complex that a Massachusetts Institute of Technology degree is necessary to fly them, but nonetheless added the company was "probably the greatest company in the world" and vowed to help.

"When they see us, making sure that Boeing is strong again is very very powerful and very important, and we'll do whatever is necessary to do," he added.

Boeing became the United States' sole remaining manufacturer of civil airliners in 1997 when it acquired its main competitor, the McDonnell-Douglas corporation.

Since then, the company's civilian airline division has been locked in cutthroat competition with its European counterpart, Airbus SE, with both companies frequently charging that the other illegally benefits from various forms of government contracts and subsidies.

The Seattle-based aviation giant has also suffered a number of public embarrassments over the course of 2019.

In December, the company's NASA-commissioned space capsule, the Boeing Starliner, failed to reach the International Space Station during a mandated test flight for the space agency's Commercial Crew Vehicle program.

The embarrassing mishap was found to be the result of a software bug, and combined with the failure to gain approval for the company's 737 Max aircraft to return to flight after more than a year of redesigns following two fatal accidents, led to former CEO Dennis Muilenburg's ouster in January.