What happened to Trump's 'opening our country' task force?

The White House was supposed to launch its "Opening Our Country Task Force" yesterday. Instead it was apparently replaced with something... odd.
Image: President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House on April 14, 2020.
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House on April 14, 2020.Doug Mills / Pool via Getty Images
By Steve Benen

Late last week, Donald Trump announced plans for a new entity, which he called the "Opening Our Country Task Force," the members of which would be announced Tuesday. We even had a pretty good idea as to who'd serve on the new panel, which would reportedly be focused on reopening parts of the country that have been shuttered due to the pandemic.

As recently as Monday, an administration official told NBC News that the group would be chaired by new White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who'd oversee a panel featuring much of the president's cabinet and a variety of prominent White House advisors, including Larry Kudlow, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Peter Navarro.

The big unveiling was scheduled for yesterday. So, what'd we learn about the "opening our country" task force? Among other things, that the White House's plan for the panel changed quite a bit over the last couple of days. The New York Times reported:

President Trump stood in the Rose Garden on Tuesday evening and recited a list of dozens of prominent business and labor leaders who he said would be advising him in deciding when and how to reopen the country's economy, even as governors made it clear they will make those decisions themselves. The president's announcement came after days of confusion about the makeup of what Mr. Trump has described as his "Opening the Country" council. Some business leaders were reluctant to have to defend Mr. Trump's actions and risk damaging their brands, people with knowledge of the process said.

After yesterday afternoon's press briefing, the White House distributed a list of 220 people, from a variety of private industries and governmental departments, who would collectively form assorted "Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups."

It was all a bit ... odd. The "Opening Our Country Task Force" that was supposed to be unveiled yesterday was not mentioned. The list of task force members Team Trump talked to the media about on Monday was gone on Tuesday.

In its place, the White House released a list of 220 people who'll presumably have some kind of semi-formal, ill-defined advisory role on different parts of the economy.

The Times' report added, "Mr. Trump was vague about whether those on his list had all agreed to serve on the task force his administration has been struggling to put together over the past week. Some business leaders have been hesitant to attach their names to it in the middle of intense discussions in the White House about who would serve on a formal council, and what its mandate would be."

The article went on to note one of the names on the lengthy list "said that no request had been made to join the list and that there had been no advance notice of an announcement."

It's quite the fine-tuned machine, isn't it?