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How CEOs became the 4th branch of government

America needs law and order — but emphatically not the kind that President Trump has in mind when he uses the phrase. That's the message being sent by a broad coalition of CEOs who are silencing Trump and punishing his acolytes in Congress.

Why it matters: Private-sector CEOs managed to act as a faster and more effective check on the power of the president than Congress could. They have money, they have power, and they have more of the public's trust than politicians do. And they're using all of it in an attempt to preserve America's system of governance.


The big picture: The Constitution created an elaborate system of checks and balances that separated powers between the three branches of government. That system weakened as members of all three branches hewed increasingly to the platforms of the two political parties.

  • Be smart: A new political force is emerging — one based on centrist principles of predictability, stability, small-c conservatism, and, yes, the rule of law.

What they're saying: "You cannot call for violence," said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg Monday, in an interview with Reuters Next explaining why she de-platformed Trump.

"In this moment, the risk to our democracy was too big. We felt that we had to take the unprecedented step of an indefinite ban, and I’m glad that we did."

Between the lines: American capitalism is based on a foundation of legal contracts, all of which ultimately rely on the strength and stability of the government.

  • When a sitting president threatens that stability by inciting an insurrectionist mob that storms the legislature, corporate America will do everything in its power to restrain him.

Driving the news: Tech giants including Facebook, Google, Amazon and Twitter have worked in concert to quiet Trump and the far right. Other corporations are pulling political funding from all legislators who supported overturning the result of November's free and fair election.

  • And all of this has happened before the House of Representatives can even schedule an impeachment vote.

The backstory: Axios first told you about CEOs as America's new politicians in 2019, when they increasingly were responding to pressure.

  • Then corporate leaders mobilized last spring on coronavirus response, last summer over racial justice, and now they are joining ranks on climate change.

What's next: CEOs must be considered a permanent political force, wielding awesome power. This week's actions won't be the last.

  • But now these executives will face continual questions about their choices or their silence.

The bottom line: In his final days in office, Trump has managed to unify corporate America — against him. The country's CEOs in general, and its tech CEOs in particular, have found themselves capable of projecting their power onto the White House in a way that was both successful and unprecedented.

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