"We have more manufacturing employees in the U.S. than we have in any other country and in highly skilled jobs that pay well and generate growth for the U.S. economy," Tracy Ogden, a Merck spokewoman, told CNBC Tuesday evening. "Nearly $3 billion in manufacturing assets are currently deployed in the U.S. supporting our global supply of products."
Trump said Tuesday that "some of the folks that will leave" his manufacturing council "are leaving out of embarrassment."
"I've been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you're referring to, about, 'You have to bring it back to this country,'" Trump told reporters. "You can't do it in Ireland and all of these other places."
There has been an exodus of U.S. health-care companies to Ireland in years past, in the tax inversion craze that saw Medtronic, Actavis and others acquire Irish companies to move their tax base to the Emerald Isle. Pfizer tried to follow suit, attempting an ultimately politically-derailed merger with Allergan (formerly Actavis), and became a target of Trump on the campaign trail.
But Merck's Frazier has steadfastly refused to consider leaving the U.S. in the same way, saying in an interview with CNBC last year, "We didn't think doing a large transaction for the purpose of getting tax inversion benefits, which are unquestionably important financial benefits, would be the right way for us to go."
Trump's comments Tuesday, in which he unwound previous statements more strongly condemning the supremacy groups involved in the Charlottesville, Virginia, protests, were followed by the fifth and sixth business leaders stepping down from the manufacturing council: Richard Trumka and Thea Lea of the AFL-CIO. Before that, Frazier was joined Monday by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, and earlier Tuesday by Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
It's only been Merck, however, that the president has responded to directly, in the press conference Tuesday and Monday on Twitter. But despite his insistence on "knowing the facts," many industry-watchers argue Trump's got the wrong target in Merck.