President Donald Trump’s turnabout on the violence in Charlottesville has rocked his administration, leading to rising speculation that some top officials may be looking for a way out.
A parade of business executives broke ties with Trump today, a day after he blamed white nationalists and counter-protesters in equal measure for the weekend clashes that left one woman dead.
Now, frustrated aides could be next. Trump’s remarks have left some wondering if sticking by the president comes at too high a cost to their reputations.
“A lot of us joined this administration thinking we could bring to it the experience and expertise that the president didn’t have an opportunity to gain in his business career, and to encourage some restraint in what he says publicly and to our allies,” said one senior official who is contemplating whether to resign.
“After yesterday, it’s clear that there is no way for anyone, even a Marine general, to restrain his (Trump’s) impulses or counter what he sees on TV and reads on the web.”
It was hoped that retired General John Kelly, Trump’s new chief of staff, could impose some form of discipline on Trump that his predecessor, Reince Priebus, could not.
But Kelly stood with his eyes fixed on the floor when Trump veered off-script at his Manhattan office tower on Tuesday. The president accused the protesters, who rallied against neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, of being “very, very violent.”
In the uproar that followed, chief executives at companies such as Merck & Co Inc, Under Armour Inc, Intel Corp, Campbell Soup Co and 3M Co quit advisory councils to the White House. Trump then dissolved the councils.
The exodus of executives sparked talk that Gary Cohn, Trump’s top White House economic adviser and a key liaison to the US business community, might resign in protest as well.