President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence held a call with some of the most prominent investors and leaders on Wall Street to discuss the coronavirus impact on the economy, according to sources.
Investors on the call included Citadel’s Ken Griffin, Third Point’s Dan Loeb, Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman, Vista Equity’s Robert Smith, Intercontinental Exchange‘s Jeffrey Sprecher and Paul Tudor Jones, hedge fund manager and co-founder of Just Capital.
The call Tuesday took place just an hour before Trump warned of a drastic decline in U.S. economic growth if the nationwide shutdown continued. Trump also said Tuesday that he’d like to see the U.S. economy “reopen” by Easter, less than three weeks away, a step-change from a previous suggestion that the country wouldn’t turn the corner until several months from now.
The call with some of Wall Street’s top investors and hedge fund leaders was less focused on potential actions the administration could take to mitigate the impact of the novel coronavirus. Instead, it was more focused on how America’s top money managers are viewing markets and the U.S. economy, the people familiar with the matter said.
The call also included discussion on what more the Federal Reserve could do to support industries that are feeling outsized pressure as a result of the virus and how the central bank could help certain corners of the financing markets from seizing up.
Sources described the call to CNBC’s Scott Wapner as “constructive” and that the general idea was that the U.S. economy cannot be allowed to crash. Those people also said that the call reiterated that the virus won’t be permanent and that the U.S. needs a thoughtful tack when dealing with the virus and even a date-certain approach to getting back to business.
“They’re saying 25 points of GDP,” Trump said in a televised town hall appearance Tuesday.
One invisible in the change in messaging is Nick Ayers, the Georgia political strategist who served as chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence until January 2019. Ayers, who now sits on the board of global software company, Veeam, has sounded the alarm on a long-term shutdown to the White House and has served as a backchannel with corporate executives who share that fear. Ayers, CNBC has learned, arranged Tuesday’s call with Wall Street investors.
The president said in a Fox News “virtual town hall” event at the White House that he’d like to unleash the American economy by mid-April despite the protective measures instituted by a slew of states to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’re opening up this incredible country. Because we have to do that. I would love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said.
“I would love to have that. It’s such an important day for other reasons, but I’d love to make it an important day for this. I would love to have the country opened up, and rarin’ to go by Easter.”
The president and vice president spoke with the aforementioned investors about when might be appropriate to ease some of the restrictions imposed by states in their effort to help slow the virus.
Intercontinental’s Sprecher and his wife, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., came under scrutiny last week after the couple sold millions of dollars’ worth of stock earlier in the year.
Last week, reports said Loeffler and other GOP senators, Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina and Oklahoma’s James Inhofe, along with California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, dumped shares worth up to $10 million in the weeks after a Jan. 24 private briefing to senators about the coronavirus by Trump administration health officials.
Intercontinental Exchange is the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange.
— CNBC’s Dan Mangan contributed reporting.
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