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In an op-ed article for the Financial Times, Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary and Harvard economics professor, went after the business executives remaining on President Donald Trump’s various business councils.
Summers, a longtime critic of Trump, wrote that Trump’s initial failure to denounce white nationalists after the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, proved that the members of the various business advisory councils were having little impact on the president.
“No advisor committed to the bipartisan American traditions of government can possibly believe he or she is being effective at this point,” Summers wrote. “And all should feel ashamed for complicity in Mr Trump’s words and deeds. I sometimes wonder how they face their children.”
The article also praised Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck, for resigning from Trump’s manufacturing council on Monday because of Trump’s response to the Charlottesville violence.
“I have since inauguration day been troubled by the abdication of moral responsibility on the part of business figures who have lent their reputations to Donald Trump,” Summers wrote. “So congratulations to Merck chief executive Ken Frazier on his resignation from the American Manufacturing Council over the president’s manifestly inadequate response to Charlottesville.”
Trump attacked Frazier on Twitter soon after the pharma CEO left the council, saying, “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
Trump did eventually denounce white-supremacist groups by name in a televised address a few hours after he criticized Frazier.
Summers thinks that by remaining on the councils, business executives are allowing Trump to gain legitimacy by using their reputations. The economist argued that the business leaders could still call the White House on specific topics and influence policy without giving Trump the added value of their association via the councils.
“Every member of Mr Trump’s advisory councils should wrestle with his or her conscience and ponder Edmund Burke’s famous warning that ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,'” Summers concluded.