Summary List Placement
“People are allowed to support presidents,” Stephen Schwarzman, the billionaire chief executive and cofounder of Blackstone, told Insider in December. “When I was younger, everybody supported presidents.”
The interview took place on Dec. 8, and was focused on a colleague. Conversation had turned to Schwarzman’s support of President Donald Trump, who at that time had lost the presidential election to Joe Biden and was promoting baseless claims about widespread voter fraud.
“He was president, I don’t know if you were aware of that,” Schwarzman told Insider when asked whether his support for Trump had had any impact on Blackstone.
Schwarzman’s answers came after a report surfaced in the Financial Times that he had expressed his support of Trump contesting the election on a call with Fortune 500 CEOs.
A month on, those comments have taken on a different hue.
On Jan. 6, Trump held a rally in front of the White House that incited a mob to break into the Capitol Building. The attack left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer.
Schwarzman had somber words after the attack, issuing a statement calling the event “appalling and an affront to the democratic values we hold dear as Americans.”
“I am shocked and horrified by this mob’s attempt to undermine our constitution,” he said. “As I said in November, the outcome of the election is very clear and there must be a peaceful transition of power.” Schwarzman’s statement did not criticize Trump directly or hold him accountable for the rampage.
Schwarzman declined to answer follow-up questions in recent days from Insider.
Schwarzman has been a close ally of Trump throughout his presidency, lending his administration the imprimatur of a luminary of Wall Street and corporate America.
He has been a major Republican backer, contributing millions of dollars to political action committees that supported Trump’s reelection and legislators who have been key allies of the president, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Schwarzman waited more than two weeks after Biden’s victory was announced by election officials to publicly acknowledge that Trump had lost.
Some observers, like Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times, cast Schwarzman as an enabler in the aftermath of the US Capitol attack. Former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein took aim at those on Wall Street who turned a blind eye to risks posed by Trump.
Many in corporate America have scrambled to distance themselves from Trump in recent days, with Nelson Peltz going on CNBC to say he was sorry for voting for Trump in 2020, and corporations like Walmart, Marriott, and Blue Cross Blue Shield conducting a review of their donations to politicians.
Now, Schwarzman’s colleagues and allies are trying to put distance between the two men.
A source close to Schwarzman said on Monday that the private-equity exec and Trump haven’t spoken in six months. Friends and colleagues of Schwarzman downplayed his relationship with Trump, saying that while the pair sometimes saw each other in Florida and New York business circles, they were never close friends.
A longtime friend of Schwarzman’s, speaking on background to Insider, said that Schwarzman felt a patriotic responsibility when Trump first asked him to serve on a forum of business leaders who counseled the president on economic issues.
“His view was ‘Screw it, if I can lend an ear with some constructive input, I don’t care who he is, I’m going to do that’,” the source said.
Schwarzman raised similar points in the early December interview with Insider.
“If you got a call from the president, you’d probably help him, wouldn’t you?” Schwarzman said. “Or would you turn him down? If it was something where you thought it was something worth accomplishing, would you turn a president down?”
It’s not clear whether the events of Jan. 6 will have an impact on Schwarzman or Blackstone.
Schwarzman said in the December interview that Blackstone’s image had not been affected by his close association with Trump.
“It hasn’t affected the firm,” Schwarzman told Insider, growing at moments irritated by the line of questioning. “If you have noticed, the firm has grown enormously during this period. We have had terrific results.”