A dozen members of President Trump’s Manufacturing Council announced this week they’d be leaving the group after the president defended the white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, leading Trump to disband the council and his Strategic and Policy Forum altogether.
Trump is left with just two commissions — his Bipartisan President Commission on Election Integrity and the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
ThinkProgress reached out to members of both commissions to see if Trump’s mishandling of his response to the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville this weekend has made them reconsider their role on a White House commission.
As of Wednesday, none of the 12 members of the bipartisan voting commission or the five members of the opioid commission said they would be resigning. While business leaders on the president’s former manufacturing council, like Merck CEO Kenneth Frazer, said they felt a “responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism” after Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, members of the voting and opioid commissions said they do not feel the same way.
Mark Rhodes (D)
Rhodes, a West Virginia county clerk, claimed on Wednesday that he had not heard Trump’s comments. “To be honest with you, I have really not even listened to the president’s comments on Charlottesville or read very much on that,” he said. “I had not listened to the news on that subject.”
When ThinkProgress summarized Trump’s remarks, Rhodes said that he would not consider leaving his post on the commission. “Not at this time, no,” he said, adding that he would only consider leaving if the role began to interfere with his current job.
“The integrity of the election is still of the utmost importance to me,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter who the president is or who any of the leaders are. I believe in the election process.”
Rhodes said he is not worried that his participation will be seen as condoning the president’s racist rhetoric. When asked if there is a line Trump could cross that would change his mind, Rhodes said the president would have to do something nefarious related to elections.
“There’s always something that’s going to cross the line, and to be frankly honest with you, it’s one of the reasons I don’t like to talk to reporters,” he said. “That’s a broad, general statement there…. I’m looking at one subject at this point in time.”
David Dunn (D)
Dunn, a former Arkansas state legislator and government affairs lobbyist, told ThinkProgress that as of Wednesday, he does not have plans to step down from the commission.
“I’ve not really given much thought to the commission because we don’t even know what our next move is,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of communication. And so I really haven’t thought about it much, one way or the other, as far as it pertains to the integrity of the commission.”
When asked if he worries that his position will appear to condone Trump’s support of white supremacists, Dunn said: “I certainly hope not.” He went on to explain why he will keep his position, for now:
They invited me to be on this deal as a Democrat, and I felt like it was an opportunity to have a seat at the table. People were very, very concerned about the initial conversation about this whole commission. I think that even though I disagree with what the administration is saying and I disagreed with a lot of the rhetoric that surrounded the initiation of this commission — not necessarily coming from just the administration but the whole news, everybody saying what it was going to do — that was kind of why I got involved in it. To say, ‘you know what, if we just disassociate ourselves from it,’ — is that not going to just allow exactly what we’re afraid of to happen? Maybe I’m looking at this differently. I did not ever feel like my involvement in this commission anyhow endorsed President Trump or endorsed what the conversation was about voter suppression or making it harder for people to go to the voting polls. I felt like it was my opportunity to make sure that kind of stuff didn’t happen. Now, what kind of an impact I can have on… a very, very sad event — I mean it breaks my heart — I just don’t know if that’s what I’m here for. That’s the way I look at it right now… If something changes, I certainly feel strongly enough about my convictions to do something different.
Dunn added that it would be impossible to say what kind of action or rhetoric by the president would lead him to change his mind. “Pretty big lines have been jumped,” he laughed.
Looking at the CEOs who have stepped down from the manufacturing council, Dunn said that he might think differently if he managed thousands of employees and did not have to think about just himself. “I don’t speak for a brand name or a company — I speak for myself,” he said.
“I just did not relate my involvement in this election integrity commission to what’s going on in Charlottesville,” he continued. “Maybe I should. But right now I don’t have any plans to step down.”
Matthew Dunlap (D)
Dunlap, Maine’s Democratic secretary of state, told ThinkProgress that he has not been approached by anybody in the state of Maine this week about his role on the commission, and he has not considered resigning.
“I don’t see the connectivity between what Trump has said or what has happened with the manufacturing council in the wake of Charlottesville and what we’re working on with the elections commission,” he said. “I’m not sure I would actually be bringing value by resigning from the commission.”
He later added that he’s not able to say right now exactly what would cause him to resign.
“I don’t see I add [anything] by withdrawing,” he said. “I think I do more right now by participating. If there is a point where I feel like my participation erodes its own value, then I will contemplate what my options are… I’m as concerned about what’s happening in this country right now as anybody else is.”
While more than a half dozen CEOs resigned over the president’s Charlottesville response, Dunlap claimed that they have a responsibility to set an example for their thousands of employees from diverse backgrounds. He did not seem to think that as a secretary of state and voting commission member, he has the same responsibility to the diverse voters of America.
Dunlap also said that he put a statement on Facebook this week telling Maine voters that if they support the Confederate flag, they are supporting the death of soldiers from the state who fought in the Civil War.
Bill Gardner (D)
New Hampshire’s secretary of state did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Alan King (D)
King, an Alabama probate judge, was not immediately available for comment.
Mike Pence (R), chair
The vice president has defended Trump’s comments on Charlottesville.
Kris Kobach (R), vice chair
Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state and a candidate for governor, was not immediately available for comment.
Hans von Spakovsky (R)
Heritage Foundation attorney von Spakovsky did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Connie Lawson (R)
Indiana’s Republican secretary of state did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ken Blackwell (R)
Blackwell, a former Ohio secretary of state, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Christy McCormick (R)
McCormick, a commissioner on the Election Assistance Commission, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
J. Christian Adams (R)
Adams, the president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, has no plans to resign from the commission. “He’s keeping his eye on the commission and is not planning to resign,” said Logan Churchwell, a spokesperson for the organization.
Gov. Chris Christie (R), chair
Christie’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but he did tweet his reaction to the president’s rhetoric.
We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville. Everyone in leadership must speak out.
— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) August 12, 2017
Gov. Roy Cooper (R)
Cooper’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but he did tweet his reaction to the president’s rhetoric.
The tragedy in Charlottesville today has no place in our society. Valuing diversity makes us stronger. – RC
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) August 12, 2017
Gov. Charlie Baker (R)
Baker’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but he did tweet his reaction to the president’s rhetoric.
Governor Baker issues statement regarding white supremacy and President Trump’s response. pic.twitter.com/ecqrta1uOI
— Charlie Baker (@MassGovernor) August 15, 2017
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-MA)
Kennedy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but he did tweet his reaction to the president’s rhetoric.
— Patrick J. Kennedy (@PJK4brainhealth) August 15, 2017
Professor Bertha Madras, Ph.D.
Laura Neves, a spokesperson at McLean Hospital where Madras works, said Madras has no intention of leaving the opioid commission. “She’s treating this as a political issue, and not a public health question,” Neves said when asked if Madras is considering leaving given Trump’s response to Charlottesville.
This story will be updated as we hear from more members of Trump’s commissions.