Big business braces for potential return of Trump

Big business is bracing for the return of former President Trump, as Republican voters appear certain to give him a third shot at the White House.

After Trump scored key wins in Iowa and New Hampshire against former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley — the preferred choice of some major business figures — corporate leaders seem keen on getting out of the former president’s crosshairs.

“Most senior businessmen I talk to can’t stand the guy. They just recognize that he’s very dangerous for the country,” said Larry Harris, a finance professor at the University of Southern California and former chief economist at Securities and Exchange Commission.

“But nobody wants to open their mouth. Because unless everybody acts simultaneously, whoever pops up gets beaten down immediately.”

J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who was urging fellow business leaders to back Haley just two months ago, offered praise for Trump’s first-term policies while at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this month.

“Just take a step back and be honest,” Dimon said. “He was kind of right about NATO. He was kind of right about immigration. He grew the economy quite well. Trade, tax reform worked. He was right about some of China.”

“I don’t like how he said things about Mexico, but he wasn’t wrong about some of these critical issues,” he added.

Dimon also spoke up in defense of Trump’s supporters, urging President Biden and Democrats to “grow up.”

“I mean, really, can we just stop that stuff and actually grow up and treat other people with respect and listen to them a little bit?”

Stephen Schwarzman, chair and CEO of the investment firm Blackstone, has also shifted his tune on the former president. The GOP mega-donor came out against Trump in November, saying it was “time for the Republican Party to turn to a new generation of leaders.”

However, at Davos, Schwarzman didn’t rule out supporting the former president again.

“I’m in the, ‘Let’s wait and see how this works,’” he said when pressed on whether he would back Trump in the election. “I’m not into the hypothetical world yet, as much as you’d like me to be. And we’ll see what happens. There are always surprises in these elections.”

Anthony Scaramucci, who briefly served as Trump’s White House communications director and has since become a frequent critic of the former president, accused Wall Street of being “basically nonchalant” about the 2024 election.

“I think they view Donald Trump by and large as benign to somewhat beneficial to the economy and business,” he said in an interview with The Hill earlier this month.

Harris suggested that most business leaders don’t want to suffer the consequences of standing against Trump alone.

“I mean, look what happened to Disney by [former Republican presidential candidate and Gov. Ron] DeSantis in Florida, and DeSantis didn’t have anywhere near the power that Trump does,” he added.

After beating Haley in New Hampshire by a smaller margin than anticipated, Trump turned to Truth Social to warn that any donors who support the former U.N. ambassador would be “permanently barred from the MAGA camp.”

“When I ran for Office and won, I noticed that the losing Candidate’s ‘Donors’ would immediately come to me, and want to ‘help out.’ This is standard in Politics, but no longer with me,” he said.

“We don’t want them, and will not accept them, because we Put America First, and ALWAYS WILL!” Trump added.

The former president also has a history of publicly lashing out at business leaders, particularly on social media.

Shortly after being elected president in 2016, he urged the federal government to cancel its order with Boeing for a revamped Air Force One, slamming the costs of the project as “out of control” in a Twitter post.

In late 2018 and early 2019, Trump repeatedly called out General Motors CEO Mary Barra and at one point threatened to cut the automaker’s electric vehicle subsidies after it announced plans to slash 15,000 jobs and close five plants.

He also called for a boycott of Goodyear in 2020, after the company banned employees from wearing “MAGA Attire.”

While some companies may stand to benefit from potential tax reforms or deregulation efforts under the former president, business experts suggested that another Trump term would pose risks for big business.

The Trump era “proved to be somewhat less than stable,” said Daniel Alpert, managing partner at the investment firm Westwood Capital.

“You always have to remember that business interests really are motivated by stability, and that’s every form of stability — price stability, political stability, consumer demand, every kind of stability — because that allows them to plan and make profits,” Alpert said.

Andrew Lokay, a senior research analyst at Beacon Policy Advisors, also noted that the business community would have to reckon with a return of Trump’s protectionist approach to trade in a second term.

“In a second term, I expect Trump to take his America First policies to the next level,” Lokay told The Hill. “He’s called for a universal tariff of 10 percent on imports from all countries, which is a move that would significantly withdraw the United States from the global economy.”

However, some companies, such as domestic manufacturers, have previously enjoyed Trump’s tariff policies and are “pretty keen on the notion of greater protectionism,” Alpert said.

He added that heavily regulated industries would likely also support the more “laissez faire” approach to regulation that would be favored by another Trump administration.

Lokay also noted that the business community as a whole would welcome the potential for unified Republican control of government under a second Trump administration, given that provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are set to expire in 2025, and GOP control would raise the likelihood of further individual and corporate tax cuts.

“I don’t believe there’s a consensus as to what eventually will transpire here, and the reason is that there are so many potential on- and off-ramps that could affect the outcome between now and the general election,” Alpert said.

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