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Donald Trump's top business allies quiet on impeachment

Max Zahn
Reporter

In response to an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, many of his closest allies in Washington D.C. have dismissed it as a partisan hoax or downplayed the alleged wrongdoing. But his top supporters in the business community have done something else: remained near-uniformly silent.

Yahoo Finance contacted 37 prominent business leaders, many of them allies of Trump, some of whom have contributed tens of millions of dollars to his presidential campaigns and provided him with economic advice.

Three of the backers criticized the impeachment inquiry — while the vast majority of Trump’s wealthiest and most well-known supporters passed up the opportunity to defend him.

Blackstone (BX) CEO Steve Schwarzman and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon — both of whom served on one of Trump’s since-disbanded business advisory councils — declined to comment through spokespeople. The same response came from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who along with his wife Miriam contributed $20 million to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Meanwhile, hedge fund tycoon Robert Mercer and Related Co. Chairman Stephen Ross did not respond to multiple requests for comment. BlackRock (BLK) CEO Larry Fink, who also served on one of Trump’s business advisory councils, did not respond to a request for comment either.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting at the InterContinental Barclay hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, in New York. The conversation between Trump and Ukraine’s president is just one piece of the whistleblower’s overall complaint _ made in mid-August _ which followed Trump’s July 25 call. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

John Paulson, a billionaire who held a fundraiser for Trump the day after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry, declined to comment through an employee at his hedge fund Paulson and Co.

Some of Trump’s closest supporters stood with the president, though.

“The election is just over a year away, we should all let the American public decide on President Trump’s fitness, not a highly partisan caucus in Congress,” said Christopher Ruddy, Newsmax CEO and longtime confidant of Trump. “It’s disappointing to see politics being played this way.”

Asked why most of Trump’s prominent business allies forwent the opportunity to comment on impeachment, Ruddy said, “ I have no idea.”

In recent months, some business leaders have come under fire for their ties to Trump, perhaps most notably Ross, who became the target of criticism and calls for boycotts last month after news broke of a Trump fundraiser he was set to host.

On Tuesday, Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry after reports that on a July phone call Trump had pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. In subsequent days, the Trump administration released a rough transcript of the call and a whistleblower complaint filed in its aftermath.

As of Saturday morning, The New York Times reported that 223 members of the House back an impeachment inquiry, giving it majority support in that chamber.

Businessman Sheldon Adelson (L) and Republican candidate for Vice President Mike Penceapplaude before the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on September 26, 2016. (Photo credit should read JOE RAEDLE/AFP/Getty Images)

‘I’m disgusted by it’

Three business allies of Trump told Yahoo Finance they were dismayed by an impeachment inquiry that they consider unfounded.

“If the president willfully and flagrantly broke the law, he should be impeached,” Ruddy says. “However, I see no evidence of that so far.”

Peter Zieve, CEO of aerospace company Electroimpact Inc. who gave $1 million to outside groups in support of Trump’s 2016 campaign, said he is “sick” of the impeachment inquiry.

“I’m disgusted by it,” he adds. “Because there’s no reason to do that. I don’t see a high crime or misdemeanor.”

Asked to elaborate on his view, Zieve said, “I don’t want to talk about this. Thanks very much.”

Todd Ricketts, Chicago Cubs co-owner and Finance Chair for the Republican National Committee, described the impeachment inquiry as a partisan attack that has helped the RNC raise money.

“While irresponsible Democrats are seeking a vote on impeachment, countless Americans are voting with their check books — resulting in an unprecedented amount of financial support for the Republican National Committee,” he says.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leads other House Democrats to discuss H.R. 1, The For the People Act, which passed in the House but is being held up in the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. From left are, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., and Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Travis Brown, founder of political consulting firm Pelopidas, who has done outreach to the business community on behalf of Trump’s reelection campaign, helping it and joint fundraising committees raise $54 million in the second quarter of this year, declined to comment.

The same response came from Robert Murray, chief executive of Murray Energy Corporation, who gave $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration and afterward reportedly submitted a list ways he would like the administration to cut environmental regulations.

When reached by phone, some of Trump’s backers sounded surprised to be asked about impeachment.

“Oh boy, I was once in politics but I don’t have any comment,” says Patrick Durkin, the managing director at Atlas Merchant Capital, who has done fundraising outreach for Trump’s reelection campaign.

Other private sector allies of Trump who either did not respond to multiple requests for comment or declined to comment include a number who served as main economic advisers to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign: Heritage Foundation Fellow Stephen Moore, Coalition for Prosperous America Chairman Dan Dimicco, Cerberus Capital Management Co-CEO Stephen Feinberg, and Andy Beal, founder and chairman of Beal Bank.

Max Zahn is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Find him on twitter @MaxZahn_.

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