Trump’s Potemkin Restart Includes Zoom Meeting Invites to Top Reality TV Chefs

I guess, if the WaPo is going to continue to treat President Trump’s “plan” to restart the economy as a real policy effort, they’ll end up reporting all the evidence that it’s just a Potemkin show for their benefit and that of Trump’s followers. Yesterday, they described that the Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups that he had rolled out just a day earlier involved, to a significant extent, simply putting a bunch of names on a list and then having a conference call that the White House assumed they would call into.

Some of the groups involved in the calls were notified in advance of Trump’s announcement, while others heard their names for the first time during the Rose Garden event Tuesday night.

“We got a note about a conference call, like you’d get an invite to a Zoom thing, a few lines in an email, and that was it. Then our CEO heard his name in the Rose Garden? What the [expletive]?” said one prominent Washington lobbyist for a leading global corporation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter. “My company is furious. How do you go from ‘Join us on a call’ to, ‘Well, you’re on our team?’”


One member of a group that participated in the calls, the AFL-CIO, was told in advance of being named to the outside advisory council. But a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO said its leader, Richard Trumka, was not asked — rather, Trump just announced that the coalition of labor unions would be a part of the council, she said.

And the list of businesses invited looks like something Jorge Luis Borges would invent to demonstrate the addled mind of someone who doesn’t understand the American economy. It includes casinos, foreign-owned cruise lines,  Trump’s buddies who own sports teams, and top Reality TV chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller, and Daniel Boulud (h/t DJ for the Top Chef insight). While it includes some businesses that are part of critical supply chains, there are big gaps that we should expect to be the ones that will crash once the economy does reopen more broadly. And large populations of workers and small business owners are barely represented.

Had Trump done even the least little bit of staff work before putting a slew of executives on the phone with the President, someone in the White House would have known that they would have undermined his claims to be ready to reopen with the same point epidemiologists, journalists, and others have been making: we can’t reopen until we have way more testing.

Many of the chief executives urged the White House to focus more on mass testing, according to several participants on the calls. Public health experts have argued that widespread testing is a key prerequisite to reopening the economy because it would determine who is infected and needs to be isolated, giving Americans greater confidence that they can safely return to work and public life.


On one of the morning calls, the point most emphasized by the chief executives was the need for massive testing, which they said would be necessary to create the psychological circumstances for the nation to feel comfortable returning to offices, restaurants and recreation, according to a person familiar with the call.

It’s hard to read about the circumstances of these calls — who was on the list, how the calls were set up, and Trump’s lack of preparation — and take anything away except that this is all just a show, a way to give Trump a big announcement on May 1, maybe even a ribbon cutting ceremony, with absolutely none of the work to move us towards reopening the economy.

Which is, in turn, testament to the fact that four months into this crisis, Trump still believes it is not real.

Update: Politico’s bankster sources described the call as a shit show.

There was a small problem with the Wall Street call. Actually several problems.

Many of the bankers said they knew nothing about the call until late Tuesday night. Several had quarterly earnings calls this morning that directly conflicted with the timing of the White House summons.

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon couldn’t be on the call because of earnings. Neither could JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, though not because of earnings. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan was able to dial in right after his earnings call ended. Another senior executive from JPMorgan attempted to get on the call in Dimon’s place, two people briefed on the call told POLITICO, but couldn’t get through for 20 minutes and finally gave up.

One top executive described the call as a “shit show” that produced little of substance.

28 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It’s hard to read about the circumstances of these calls…and Trump’s lack of preparation…and take anything away except that this is all just a show, a way to give Trump a big announcement…maybe even a ribbon cutting ceremony, with absolutely none of the work to move us towards reopening the economy.

    Faux glitz, faux glamor, none of the preparation, thought, or work, nothing gets done: Donald Trump’s lifetime performance in a nutshell.

  2. harpie says:

    Trump still believes it is not real.

    Trump’s ONLY “reality” is his fevered hallucinations.

    • Tom says:

      Or maybe he knows very well that it is real and is flailing around desperately trying to generate a smokescreen to conceal the fact that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Trump is like a drunk at a party who is getting ready to drive the country off a cliff but nobody dares take his car keys away.

      • P J Evans says:

        Or the elderly parent who has lots of minor car accidents, lies about them, lies to their doctor, may have trouble navigating when driving, and their kids won’t take the keys away because parent “likes independence”.

  3. madwand says:

    I remember Hope Hicks relating why she hero worships Trump, it was because he could dominate the news cycle, sometimes with a tweet. Unfortunately for many of the non-thinking ones that is the standard, never mind Rome is burning and your home is next.

  4. Peterr says:

    I get that these CEOs who were blindsided don’t exactly want to get on the wrong side of a guy who can blow a hole in your stock prices with a couple of tweets.

    But I think there are a lot of folks out there who would applaud a CEO with the guts to put his face and name out there in public and say something like “No, Mr. President, we’re NOT ready to re-open. We want to, but unless and until our workers can be assured that they can work in safety, and our customers can be assured that they can deal with us in safety, there’s no point is ‘opening the doors again’ to business. We. Are. Not. Ready.”

    • Tom says:

      I wish people would keep in mind that there is nothing of intrinsic value or insight in anything Trump tweets, and that the moment he’s out of the White House no-one will give a rodent’s derriere for anything he might say. People will be embarrassed that they once paid him so much attention or allowed themselves to be intimidated by him.

      • Peterr says:

        If Trump tweets out that Company A is doing great stuff and he’ll be looking to them to really make a splash as the Trump administration does X, a non-trivial chunk of investors will look at that as what would be an insider trading tip if Company A’s CEO put this out.

        Similarly, if Trump tweets out that Company B is not being good to him, and that this will come back to bite Company B, market players will see this the same way.

        In both cases, Trump’s tweets affect how investors look at stocks. When the president speaks — whoever that president is — the stock market takes notice and often acts accordingly. In Trump’s case, however, I think we’re getting closer to the president being treated like the little boy who cried Wolf! one too many times.

  5. OldTulsaDude says:

    Trump is simple to understand: he spends his days holding a magic mirror, staring at himself, trying to trick everyone else to look into the mirror, too.

  6. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    It’s not just that these are Top Chef chefs. It’s that it’s a snub to Tom Colicchio who has been critical of Trump from the beginning of the administration and has been a visible spokesperson for the restaurant/hospitality industry and the deficiencies of the stimulus/bailout.

    • orionATL says:

      thomas keller’s extremely disciplined personality would be so at odds with trump’s rolling chaos that they surely could not stand to be in the same room together. but then this is not a real effort to guide and help the nation, it is just another trump campaign headfake looking toward november – trump uber alles.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    USAA bank and its brethren – including mortgage servicers – are grabbing those direct deposit stimulus payments from the Treasury. USAA bank is part of United Services Automobile Association, a large player in the FIRE business, it focuses its advertising on the banking and insurance services it sells to military families.

    Many stories of the banks’ smash and grab have gone viral, including one covered by Dave Dayen. The family had closed its USAA account over claims of fraudulent activity, which USAA would normally be liable for. Treasury deposited the stimulus check into the closed account and USAA claimed it as its own. USAA’s response to the family’s complaint: “You shouldn’t have gone into debt.” It seems no one at USAA has heard of the consumer-driven economy.

    Congress allowed the loophole, which favors its biggest lobbyists. It should close it. The stimulus money is nominally intended to keep the economy from going further into depression. It’s also necessary to keep tens of millions of people housed, clothed, and fed.

    The money families receive will be spent immediately into a myriad of local economies. If it is diverted directly into the financial system, its effects will be fewer and delayed, economic depression will deepen and lengthen, and more of its effects will become permanent. The entire country will move closer to becoming like NOLA post-Katrina.

    [FYI, replaced link to David Dayen’s Twitter account with a more specific link to a tweet about the USAA seizures./~Rayne]

    • P J Evans says:

      I’ve seen stories of checks being deposited into other accounts than the one they were supposed to go into – mostly from people who had to tell the IRS they were eligible, and where to send it.

  8. Vicks says:

    Please! Somebody smoke out this lie!
    There is no way this woman wandered into her local bank and to her delight found a loan officer hanging out at his/her desk waiting to serve her.
    The only way this happened was Mr/Ms Kudlow got someone from the bank to leave their home office (claiming they had essential business) meet her at her branch and despite reporting of banks application programs crashing for everyone else, (especially during banking hours) fill out the ONLINE application for her.
    There are lies and there are f’ing lies.

    • P J Evans says:

      The bank branch at my supermarket is closed. The credit union I go to closed its one branch (except for the ATM) and is doing limited business at its main office (stuff where you can’t do it via ATM or online).

      • ducktree says:

        My credit union (LBSFCU) has all branches open except for the branch at CSULB because that campus is closed. They are encouraging members to use online and telephone (home teller) services, but if a member must come in a face covering or shield is required.

        • P J Evans says:

          My apt building (61 units, maybe 100 residents) is requiring masks. At the market this morning, only a few people were without them. (I do wonder where all the medical-type masks came from.)

          • ducktree says:

            Face covering is required in all the businesses I’ve been to since last weekend: at Food 4 Less, Ralphs and Whole Foods/365. Mostly people are wearing what look like surgical masks and some are simply being creative with bandanas. The N95s I’ve been using are suffocating after not very long because of my asthma, so I’m soon going to start using bandanas for shopping. Luckily, I’m still able to remain employed while hunkered down in my den!

            • vicks says:

              Oh man, I don’t feel good when I wear a mask.
              I pull it down all the time because I start feeling like my head is in a vice.
              I’ve tried a couple different kinds and I am hoping that the types “the pros wear” will work better for me when they become available.

              • bmaz says:

                Naw, the “kinds the pros wear” are not necessarily any better. The difference is the pros get used to it over time. It will always kind of suck, but you can get used to it.

                Somewhere out in my garage/workshop, I still have one of these. But, man, I would feel stupid wearing it in public as opposed to in a confined place where I was spraying lacquer. And, no matter how used I got to it, it always sucked.

            • P J Evans says:

              I’ve been creative with bandanas – but they are harder to breathe through because of all the layers, and I have trouble getting them to stay up.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      In case you missed it, here’s John Oliver’s take. The Kudlow part starts at about the 4:28 mark of the clip. But, as you might imagine, the whole episode is well worth watching. In retrospect, my mind has made some kind of analogy between Oliver’s comments about the cat that dominated one segment and the later segment where the bison sculpture is behind Trump’s head as he babbles his BS…Just saying, maybe Trump might want to up his game in the new social distancing PR environment…

      “Last Week Tonight: John Oliver on unemployment, essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.”

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