Trump rants behind closed doors with CEOs
The president rails against China over dinner with execs and senior White House staff.
Over a dinner of beef tenderloin and lobster tail at his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, President Donald Trump on Tuesday night unleashed a rant about China as corporate executives listened on.
The president entertained a group of 15 CEOs and senior White House staff at a dinner in the middle of his annual working vacation. The dinner was billed as 「an opportunity for the president to hear how the economy is doing ... and what their priorities and thoughts are for the year ahead.」
But Trump spent a good portion of the meal sharing his own thoughts, specifically about China.
Trump told the executives that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 「One Belt One Road Initiative,」 China’s economic plan that has the potential to disrupt trade worldwide, was 「insulting」 and that he didn』t want it, according to a person in the room. Trump said he had told Xi as much to his face.
Trump, who headed into vacation frustrated that China was retaliating against his tariffs, said it was going to be his priority to stop the rival world superpower from getting unfair trade advantages.
China has reacted to American tariffs on Chinese goods in kind, imposing new duties on $50 billion worth of American products. That retaliatory action has angered and surprised Trump, according to people familiar with his thinking.
Trump in April tweeted that "Xi and I will always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade," and that he saw a "great future for both countries!"
At one point during the dinner, Trump noted of an unnamed country that the attendee said was clearly China, 「almost every student that comes over to this country is a spy.」
The White House declined to comment.
The 13 CEOs assembled included Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, Fiat Chrysler CEO Michael Manley, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, Ernst & Young CEO Mark Weinberger and Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky, among others. The group included some longtime Trump friends, including supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy and New York City real estate developer Richard LeFrak.
Over dessert — a 「signature Trump cookie,」 served with Tahitian vanilla ice cream and chocolate and caramel sauces — Trump entertained questions from the executives, many of whom pressed him on immigration policy.
The business world, which wants the administration to soften its hard immigration policies, was told, at least on Tuesday night, exactly what it wanted to hear.