Trump’s Task Force to Reopen U.S. Becomes a Marathon of Phone Calls

President Donald Trump’s plan to create a task force to help revive the nation’s economy has turned into a marathon series of phone calls on Wednesday with more than 200 leaders from nearly every corner of the U.S. economy.

As the coronavirus outbreak shows signs of plateauing in the country, business executives are being asked to advise Trump on how to resume something approaching normal business and social life. They’re set to talk to the president in group calls starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Washington.

The calls are scheduled to include chief executive officers of some of the country’s largest and most prominant companies, including Tim Cook of Apple Inc., Doug McMillon of Walmart Inc. and Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase & Co.

The format is much different than Trump initially described last week, when he said he would create a council of “very great” doctors and business people to advise him. The impression was a group akin to the coronavirus task force already guiding the administration’s public health strategy.

While the sheer size and diversity of the new group will allow Trump to hear a broad range of opinions, it likely won’t provide an environment for in-depth debate on pressing questions such as whether the U.S. has sufficient testing capacity for the virus or which sectors of the economy should be among the first to go back to work.

“They’re going to give us some ideas,” Trump said Tuesday at a Rose Garden news conference, introducing the panels that the White House called the “Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups.”

Trump also said he thought the group would be “bipartisan.” While the corporate executives have varying political leanings — Jeff Bezos, the Amazon Inc. CEO who has been a Trump foil for years, is among them — the calls include academics from conservative research groups with ties to the White House, such as the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation.

No similar Democratic groups or lawmakers will participate.

Many of the executives also are close to Trump, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Citadel LLC’s Ken Griffin and Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone Group Inc. The group also includes a few people who have criticized Trump in the past, such as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“This is such a moving target that I think the biggest mistake we can make is rush to a decision, but I’m going to help him in every way I can, whatever he needs me to do,” Cuban said on Fox News on Wednesday.

The White House released a list of participants later Tuesday. “These bipartisan groups of American leaders will work together with the White House to chart the path forward toward a future of unparalleled American prosperity,” the White House said in a statement, without elaborating on how they may shape the administration’s policies.

In addition to Dimon, Trump’s list of calls includes a slate of executives from Wall Street: Brian Moynihan of Bank of America Corp.; David Solomon of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.; James Gorman of Morgan Stanley; Michael Corbat of Citigroup Inc.; and Charles Scharf of Wells Fargo & Co.

Also set to be on the calls: Darren Woods of Exxon Mobil Corp.; Satya Nadella of Microsoft Corp.; John Malone of Liberty Media Corp.; Fred Smith of FedEx Corp.; Oscar Munoz of United Airlines Inc.; Juan Luciano of Archer-Daniels-Midland Co.; David MacLennan of Cargill Inc.; Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin Corp.; Kathy Warden of Northrop Grumman Corp.; and James Quincey of Coca-Cola Co.

Trump has been eager to end economy-stifling social-distancing measures to curb the outbreak almost as soon as he announced them, though last month he extended Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations until April 30 on the advice of government health experts.

Many of those same health officials have cautioned that lifting restrictions on May 1 may be too soon. But Trump’s economic advisers have intensified their efforts to persuade the president that the country should reopen to stave off economic ruin.

— With assistance by Josh Wingrove

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