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Merck CEO: Trump's Charlottesville remarks challenge "basic values of the country"

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Kenneth Frazier, CEO of the pharmaceuticals company Merck, was the first CEO to leave one of President Trump's business advisory councils last August after the president made divisive remarks following the white nationalist Charlottesville protests. Now, he's explaining why he abandoned Trump's council in a new interview with the New York Times:

“In this case, we were not talking about politics. We were talking about the basic values of the country. ... I think words have consequences and I think actions have consequences. I just felt that as a matter of my own personal conscience, I could not remain.”

Why it matters: The NYT interview is the first time Frazier has spoken publicly about this situation and it brings Trump's controversial Charlottesville comments back to light in a time when he's facing allegations from multiple women about past affairs.

More from Frazier:

  • “It was my view that to not take a stand on this would be viewed as a tacit endorsement of what had happened and what was said,” he told NYT.
  • He's the grandson of a man who was born into slavery. At the time he left the business council, he tweeted from Merck's account: “I feel a responsibility to take a stand against extremism,” he wrote on Merck’s Twitter account at the time.
  • “In that moment, the president’s response was one that I felt was not in concordance with my views," Frazier told NYT. "And I didn’t think they were in concordance with the views that we claim to hold as a country.”

One more thing: Charlottesville wasn't the only Trump moment Frazier disagreed with. “There were things that happened earlier on in this administration that I didn’t necessarily agree with, about immigration and climate change, but I didn’t think that it was my role to actually speak out on those issues,” he told NYT. “There’s a process for deciding how we address those issues as a country. This is a democracy.”

Mike Allen 8 hours ago
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Why Trump added a streetfighter to his legal team

Screenshot via Fox News

A new addition to President Trump's legal team — Joe diGenova, a former U.S. attorney who is well-known in Washington and has argued for the president on Fox News — reflects three White House realities.

The state of play: (1) The White House is digging in for a fight that looks to be longer and messier than officials had expected. (2) This is another example of the president responding to televised cues. Trump has spent most of his adult life in litigation, and obsesses about legal positioning in the same way that he is consumed by his press coverage. (3) It's another pugilistic voice at the table, and suggests that this weekend's attacks on Mueller won't be the last.

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Facebook reaches a tipping point

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios 

Of all the news crises Facebook has faced during the past year, the Cambridge Analytica scandal is playing out to be the worst and most damaging.

Why it matters: It's not that the reports reveal anything particularly new about how Facebook's back end works — developers have understood the vulnerabilities of Facebook's interface for years. But stakeholders crucial to the company's success — as well as the public seem less willing to listen to its side of the story this time around.