Trump's Promised Economic Reopening Council Full of Doctors, CEOs and Governors Hasn't Materialized

President Donald Trump on Tuesday spent a significant portion of the White House Coronavirus Task Force's daily briefing reading a long list of companies and individuals in different economic sectors who will be represented on a series of conference calls he hosted today.

Over 100 executives representing the agriculture, banking, construction, defense, technology, energy, restaurant, hotel, manufacturing, financial services, and private equity sectors, along with the top executives of most major American professional sports leagues, participated in the calls, which the White House dubbed "Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups."

"We look forward to speaking with many industry leaders, seeking their input on how we can return to what was, until very recently, the greatest economy anywhere in the world -- and I can say the greatest economy in the history of the world," Trump said, shortly after he'd announced that his administration would be halting U.S. financial support for the World Health Organization.

While the long roster of companies which Trump said would help to plan the process of reviving the economy included representatives from some of the largest pharmaceutical companies and health care systems in the United States, not a single legislator, governor, or public health expert was among those listed save for Scott Gottlieb, the American Enterprise Institute fellow who led the Food and Drug Administration for the first two years of Trump's presidency. And although Trump promised that he would be speaking with all 50 U.S. governors "very shortly," none of the state officials most responsible for imposing -- and lifting -- social distancing measures were included on Trump's public schedule for Wednesday.

Administration officials said the unveiling of Trump's lengthy list of CEOs and business luminaries fulfilled his goal of announcing a "council for reopening America" on Tuesday. Yet the "industry groups" the president described bear almost no resemblance to what he'd been promising since early April after he retweeted a conservative media personality's call for a second, economically-focused task force to begin working alongside the Mike Pence-led coronavirus task force.

On April 11, Trump said he would announce the formation of a group consisting of business and public health experts to help with what he called the "biggest decision I've ever had to make."

"I call it the 'opening our country task force' or 'opening our country council' so we don't get it confused with Mike's [Pence] task force, which has done so great," Trump said, adding later that the group would include "the great business leaders" and "the great doctors," as well as administration officials.

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US President Donald Trump arrives for the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 14, 2020, in Washington, DC. Mangel Ngan/Getty

Early reports indicated that the group would be led by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, the former House Freedom Caucus leader who resigned his seat to join the administration earlier this month, and would include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow. And on Monday, Trump said that the "opening our country council" would include governors from both political parties.

But rather than the small, focused public-private task force the president had described in the run-up to Tuesday's announcement, the final product looked very much like the two "CEO councils" which Trump had assembled to advise him at the outset of his administration.

Those groups, known as the "President's Strategic and Policy Forum" and the "American Manufacturing Council," disbanded in August 2017 after many of the participating executives resigned in protest of Trump's response to violence at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Moreover, many of the same executives and companies that participated in the now-defunct bodies were among those announced as taking part in the administration's new enterprise.

White House officials declined to comment on what had prompted the changes, but they appeared to start after an initial backlash to reports that the group was to include Ivanka Trump, the president's eldest daughter and a White House adviser, as well as her husband and fellow presidential adviser, Jared Kushner.

After reports indicated Ivanka Trump and Kusher -- but no public health experts -- would be on the council, Trump said during Monday's press briefing that neither of his relatives would participate.

Skybridge Capital founder and ex-White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci suggested to Newsweek that the change could be attributed to executives' reluctance to stand out as members of a smaller group with more defined responsibilities.

"Of course no one wants to go near them," said Scaramucci, who has become a vocal critic of the president since leaving the administration. "He [Trump] has never been able to keep a council together."

A person close to the White House agreed with Scaramucci's sentiments telling Newsweek the reason for the shift in status for the "industry groups" was that business leaders were unwilling to be part of a small group on which they would stand out.

As for why Trump relegated an announcement he'd been talking up for a week to second banana behind his decision to cut funding for WHO -- a move he'd said would take longer to decide upon just the day before -- one White House source told Newsweek that the decision to move up the WHO announcement had nothing to do with any trouble the administration was having with getting participants to sign on to the "reopening" task force as originally structured.

"This was always going to happen," the source said of the decision to stop funding the global health body.

While Trump took to Twitter Wednesday afternoon to write that the conference calls he was hosting had been "very productive," one person familiar with the contents told Newsweek a significant number of business leaders were warning the president off of pushing to reopen the economy absent sufficient COVID-19 testing, and it was not immediately clear whether further calls with any of the groups had been planned at this time.