President Donald Trump hosted a private conference call Tuesday morning with several billionaire Wall Street and hedge fund titans just hours before the president said he hopes to "have the country opened up" and "get people back to work" by Easter—even as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.
Among the most prominent executives on the call—which was joined by Vice President Mike Pence—were Ken Griffin, billionaire CEO of Citadel; Stephen Schwarzman, billionaire CEO of the Blackstone Group; and Paul Tudor Jones, billionaire co-founder of Just Capital. The firms represented on the Tuesday morning call collectively manage hundreds of billions of dollars in assets.
The conversation came as Senate lawmakers and White House negotiators, led by Treasury Secretary and former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin, were in the middle of talks over a $2 trillion economic stimulus package that includes $500 billion in taxpayer bailout funds for large corporations—and, though not widely reported, trillions more in a lending program backed by the Federal Reserve.
"Trump and Pence are talking to private equity titans and hedge fund moguls instead of figuring out how to help healthcare workers get masks or workers to get wages or borrowers get debt relief," tweeted progressive organizer and writer Alexis Goldstein.
The oligarchs are running the White House.https://t.co/2pl8kZ9TuZ
— tj (@totallyjust) March 25, 2020
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CNBC reported that the private conversation was "focused on how America's top money managers are viewing markets and the U.S. economy" and "what more the Federal Reserve could do to support industries that are feeling outsized pressure as a result of the virus."
Shortly following his call with the investment moguls, Trump told Fox News' Bill Hemmer that he would "love to have [the U.S. economy] opened by Easter," which is April 12.
"We can socially distance ourselves and go to work, and you'll have to work a little bit harder," Trump said. "You can clean your hands five times more than you used to. You don't have to shake hands anymore with people."
As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, Trump is considering loosening federal social distancing guidelines as early as next week despite health experts warnings that doing so could hasten the spread of COVID-19.
"Now is the time to tighten restrictions on contacts that could transmit the virus, not loosen them," Marc Lipsitch, director of Harvard's Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, told the Washington Post Monday. "If we let up now, we can be virtually certain that healthcare will be overwhelmed in many if not all parts of the country. This is the view of every well-informed infectious epidemiologist I know of."