Has Lockheed Replaced Boeing as Trump’s Favorite Defense Firm?

President Donald Trump hands a pen to Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson after signing a presidential memorandum imposing tariffs and investment restrictions on China, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Thursday, March 22, 2018.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

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President Donald Trump hands a pen to Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson after signing a presidential memorandum imposing tariffs and investment restrictions on China, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Thursday, March 22, 2018.

The U.S. president and Lockheed’s CEO have been cheering each other on, while Boeing's chief has kept a lower profile.

With Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg focused on fixing the 737 MAX, President Trump now appears to have a new favorite defense CEO: Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson.

A lot has changed since March 2018, when Trump flubbed Hewson’s name on live TV, calling her “Marillyn Lockheed” at a White House event. In the past month, the pair has had nearly weekly interactions at the White House, Lockheed factories, on the phone or, as was the case last week, inside the cab of a THAAD missile interceptor. 

“Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson is now clearly ‘all-in’ on 2020 Trump re-election,” Jim McAleese, who runs the Virginia-based McAleese and Associates consulting firm, wrote in a July 15 note to investors.

In recent months, Hewson has been a regular in the Trump orbit. She was at the White House for a June 12 reception with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Trump singled Hewson out during a speech at the event, touting the company’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“Good job, Marillyn. Doing an incredible job. Thank you, Marillyn,” Trump said.

A few weeks later, Lockheed reversed course on plans to close a Sikorsky helicopter factory in Pennsylvania, considered a swing state in the 2020 presidential election. Trump had urged Lockheed not to close the facility

Soon after on July 12, Trump visited a Lockheed factory in Milwaukee, where Hewson announced the firm would boost its 300-person workforce by 15 percent, part of a plan to hire 18,000 employees this year.

“The main reason for that, Mr. President, is because of the pro-growth policies that you have put in place on tax reform and regulatory reform,” Hewson said at the event.

Days later, Hewson was back at the White House, bringing with her a THAAD missile interceptor truck, for a showcase of American-made products. She even appeared in an official White House video touting THAAD and American jobs.

Then on Monday, there was Hewson walking alongside Ivanka Trump at a Lockheed satellite factory in Colorado. The meeting was billed as a chance for the president’s daughter and adviser to learn about the company’s apprentice programs and workforce development.

“We have a history of productive relationships with presidents, and our relationship with President Trump is consistent with that,” Maureen Schumann, a Lockheed spokeswoman said in an email. “We believe that the best way to represent our company, our employees and our shareholders is to continue to have a seat at the table and engage in the conversations that affect our business.”

Between July 20 and July 22, nine of 12 tweets and retweets from Lockheed’s official Twitter handle mentioned Trump administration officials. 

And Lockheed recently hired Jarrod Agen, Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director, to run communications in its Government Affairs office.

It’s no secret that the president, who owns a Boeing 757 and several Sikorsky helicopters, has an interest in aviation. A model of the new Air Force One, a project Trump has been personally involved in negotiating, sits on a coffee table in the Oval Office.

Yet Trump’s interest in Boeing — quite intense in his first two years in office — has been on the wane. Just a few weeks on the job, Trump proclaimed “God bless Boeing” in a speech to South Carolina factory workers who build the 787 Dreamliners. A year later, he reviewed the F/A-18 Super Hornet at the company’s St. Louis defense hub. 

CEO Muilenburg sat next to Trump during a private dinner at the president’s Bedminster, New Jersey, club in August 2018 and has been at the White House on numerous occasions. But Muilenberg has kept a low profile in the months since two deadly crashes of its 737 MAX airliner, and that apparently includes White House visits. 

Boeing reports its second-quarter 2019 earnings on Wednesday. The company has already announced it would take a $5 billion hit due to the Max grounding.

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