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Trump stacks kitchen cabinet with millionaire, billionaire executives

President-elect Donald Trump has assembled a kitchen cabinet of wealthy corporate and financial executives — including current and former leaders from General Motors, JPMorgan Chase and IBM — to provide him with economic advice.

The 16-person group, whose membership was announced Friday, will meet for the first time at the White House in early February. Leader Stephen Schwarzman, the chief executive and co-founder of private-equity giant Blackstone, is the wealthiest member of the group, with an estimated net worth of $9.9 billion.

“This forum brings together CEOs and business leaders who know what it takes to create jobs and drive economic growth,” Trump said in a statement. “My administration is committed to drawing on private sector expertise and cutting the government red tape that is holding back our businesses.”

Trump’s announcement of his Strategic and Policy Forum comes as he assembles what is already the wealthiest administration in modern American history, raising questions about his team’s ability to identify with the concerns of his voters around the country. Most of the members of the advisory panel are worth tens or hundreds of millions — if not billions — of dollars.

Those who will advise Trump are Schwarzman; Patomak Global Partners CEO Paul Atkins, a former commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission; GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra; Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove; JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon; BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink; Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger; Boston Consulting Group President and CEO Rich Lesser; Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon; former Boeing chairman and CEO Jim McNerney; Global Infrastructure Partners Chairman Adebayo Ogunlesi; IBM President and CEO Ginni Rometty; former Federal Reserve Board of Governors member Kevin Warsh; EY Global Chairman and CEO Mark Weinberger; former General Electric chairman and CEO Jack Welch; and IHS Markit Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin.

As our colleagues Jim Tankersley and Ana Swanson have noted of Trump’s cabinet and advisers:

Their collective wealth in many ways defies Trump’s populist campaign promises. Their business ties, particularly to Wall Street, have drawn rebukes from Democrats. But the group also amplifies Trump’s own campaign pitch: that Washington outsiders who know how to navigate and exploit a “rigged” system are best able to fix that system for the working class.

“It fits into Trump’s message that he’s trying to do business in an unusual way, by bringing in these outsiders,” said Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor in presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. But Trump and his team, she added, won’t be able to draw on the same sort of life struggles that President Obama did, in crafting policy to lift poor and middle-class Americans.

“They’re just not going to have any access to that” life experience, she said. “I guess it will be a test — does empathy actually matter? If you’re able to echo back what people are telling you, is that enough?”

A Trump adviser said Friday that discounting the administration based on its collective wealth is “categorically unfair.”

“He’s really evaluating talent,” investor Anthony Scaramucci told reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower. “If people in the United States have lived the American Dream and have been able to amass that kind of wealth, well certainly they’re super talented or, in what the president-elect says, they’re actually killers. . . . What I would like us to try to get done here is to sort of end the demonization of success. We want super-bright people. . . . Why is it so bad to be a billionaire, okay?”