White House disbands another advisory council, this one on infrastructure

Donald Trump said he was shutting down the other two advisory councils to "avoid putting pressure on the businesspeople" to remain on board.
Donald Trump said he was shutting down the other two advisory councils to "avoid putting pressure on the businesspeople" to remain on board.PHOTO: AFP

BRIDGEWATER, NEW JERSEY (WASHINGTON POST) - A White House advisory council on infrastructure on Thursday (Aug 17) became the latest casualty of the pique of business leaders over United States President Donald Trump's response to the hate-fuelled violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Two other outside corporate advisory groups were disbanded on Wednesday after an exodus of business leaders upset with Mr Trump's controversial statements about shared blame for last weekend's violent protests involving white supremacists.

On Thursday, the White House announced that the President's Council on Infrastructure, which it said "was still being formed", would not move forward, meeting the same fate as the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum.

Shortly after taking office in January, Mr Trump tapped two Manhattan real estate developers, Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth, to head a council aimed at guiding Mr Trump's promised US$1 trillion (S$1.37 trillion) infusion into roads, bridges, airports and other ageing infrastructure.

An executive order formally establishing the group was not issued until last month. The White House indicated that slots were still being filled on the 15-member council, which was to include experts on real estate, finance, construction, transportation and other areas.

Mr Trump said via Twitter on Wednesday that he was shutting down the other two advisory councils to "avoid putting pressure on the businesspeople" to remain on board, but momentum was already moving in that direction.

The Trump administration has put forward the outlines of an infrastructure package, but not formally unveiled its full plans for Congress. The initiative has been waiting in line behind Mr Trump's legislative pushes on health care and tax reform, both of which have stalled.

On Tuesday, while in New York, the President signed an executive order related to one aspect of his infrastructure-related ambitions: dramatically reducing the permitting time for new highways.

It was at that event at Trump Tower that he took questions on Charlottesville and renewed his argument that "both sides" were to blame for the violence and asserted that there were "fine people" among those who participated in the protest of the city's removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.