Donald Trump, the businessman-in-chief, is alienating big-business CEOs

Donald Trump, the businessman-in-chief, is alienating big-business CEOs
President Donald Trump with Elon Musk and Steve Bannon
Source: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
President Donald Trump with Elon Musk and Steve Bannon
Source: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

President successful" businessman to run for president — a guy who could "make America great again" by "making deals, preferably big deals" and running the government like a business.

It's maybe a bit ironic, then, that there's been a growing gulf between the "businessman-in-chief" and top business leaders — a distancing that was exacerbated this week when Trump announced his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.

Trump is taking the United States out of the landmark environmental deal against the wishes of hundreds of companies, including fossil fuel titans Exxon Mobil and BP. The decision has led to the resignations of business advisers like Elon Musk from Trump's presidential business councils. And, as Politico reported Saturday, all that only underscores the increasing division between Trump and some in the business community.

"It's obviously harder for public-facing companies because when the president takes a controversial position on an issue, there's pushback from clients, customers and possibly shareholders," Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, told Politico. "The potential mobilization of employees and customers through social media has made business people wary of getting involved in highly contentious political issues."

President Donald Trump announces he is withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord Thursday in the Rose Garden of the White House.
Source: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Stocks have been generally strong in the early-going of the Trump administration. But companies have also been wary of the chaos that's characterized his presidency, along with policies and plans that leaders have said would have a negative impact on their business.

That's led to wariness on the part of some business leaders to attend White House meetings, according to Politico; a consultant told Politico that the White House has taken to "pretending you have people confirmed to get other people to confirm."

“It's a manifestation of the fact that the air is coming out of this balloon quickly because the policy proposals haven't been coordinated with the Hill, the expectation that anything will be done is rapidly dissipating," the source said.

While Politico notes that this apparent rift could play into Trump's populist message, it could have real ramifications on Trump's fundraising attempts in 2018 and 2020, and could further stall his legislative agenda.

"If an administration wants something to happen and corporate America doesn’t believe in it, it’s pretty much dead in the water," Charles Geisst, a business historian at Manhattan College, told Politico.