Trump's Republican megadonors shrug off his guilty verdict

Eduardo Munoz | Reuters
  • Former President Donald Trump is unlikely to lose the support of Republican megadonors after his guilty verdict in his New York criminal trial.
  • The donor sentiment represents a shift for some, who were looking for an alternative to Trump and worried his legal problems would weight down his campaign.
  • Trump's donation website briefly went down after the verdict, prompting his aides to point would-be donors to another page.

Former President Donald Trump has at least one group of supporters he won't have to worry about losing even after he was found guilty in his New York criminal hush money trial: Republican megadonors.

"I haven't heard anybody who gives a s---," said New York businessman and Republican donor Andy Sabin, when asked whether major GOP contributors he knows care about the verdict in Trump's trial.

Many of the party's wealthiest donors tell CNBC they plan to stay in Trump's corner, despite him being found guilty in New York on all 34 felony counts.

The donor sentiment represents a shift for some Republican megadonors, who initially looked for an alternative to Trump during the party's presidential primary, driven by a belief that the the former president's legal problems would fatally weaken his campaign to replace President Joe Biden.

Now, "There is zero care about that," a longtime Republican fundraiser told CNBC. "A year ago, maybe [the trials mattered]. Now, none."

This person, along with some others in this story, was granted anonymity in order to discuss private conversations with Trump and donors.

The major donor solidarity with Trump is also reflected in Trump's fundraising numbers. Trump's trial on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments to a porn star began on April 15. That month, Trump's campaign committee raised $9.4 million.

Trump's donation website briefly went down after the verdict Thursday, prompting his aides to point would-be donors to another page.

Trump and the RNC announced they had raised over $76 million combined in April. Biden's team announced that its political operation, which includes the Democratic National Committee, raised $51 million in the same period.

Trump has also recently raised tens of millions of dollars at private events hosted by Republican megadonors.

Texas businessman and former Trump administration official Ray Washburne co-hosted an event in Dallas for Trump on May 22.

Washburne told CNBC the event raised $10 million for the Trump 47 Committee, which raises money for the Trump campaign, Trump's political action committee Save America, the Republican National Committee and dozens of state parties.

He called Trump's trial in New York "frivolous" and "absurd," adding, "Trump will have no problem raising money."

Omeed Malik, the president of 1789 Capital and a Trump bundler, told CNBC he believes the guilty verdict "will completely backfire just like the indictments, which actually boosted his [Trump's] support."

Malik co-hosted a Trump fundraiser in New York on May 14 that raised over $10 million.

A guilty verdict is a "non-issue," said David Tamasi, a Republican fundraiser and a managing director at lobbying firm Chartwell Strategy Group.

"I think if somebody had told you after Jan. 6 that the country would be where it is today, it would've been hard to get your head around that," said Tamasi. He pointed to issues he's had with Biden's handling of the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

Venture capitalist David Sacks, who is co-hosting an event for Trump in June, posted on X a message of support for the former president after the verdict was read. "Trump has a lot of supporters in Silicon Valley; many are just afraid to admit it. But with each act of courage, like this one, the dam begins to break," said Sacks.

Tamasi raised money for Trump's 2020 campaign and for former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's failed primary run against Trump last year.

Now, Tamasi says, he's planning to come back to help Trump again, including likely fundraising for him.

A Republican corporate consultant recalled to CNBC how he'd had conversations recently with nearly a dozen lobbyists who had privately ripped Trump after Jan. 6, and in the buildup to his New York trial.

All of them are going back to help raise money for Trump, in spite of the guilty verdict.

But perhaps the most telling sign of how GOP megadonors view Trump's legal problems is the case of Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman.

In 2021, following the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by hundreds of Trump supporters, Schwarzman called the riot "appalling," and said he was "shocked and horrified by this mob's attempt to undermine our Constitution."

In 2022, the billionaire and longtime GOP donor announced that it was "time for the Republican party to turn to a new generation of leaders," an obvious swipe at the party's former leader, Trump. Schwarzman also said that he planned to back one of these "new" leaders in the 2024 presidential primary.

But fast forward two years, and Schwarzman has changed his tune. After not backing any of the Republican primary contenders, Schwarzman announced that he will support Trump's White House bid. "I am planning to vote for change and support Donald Trump for President," Schwarzman said in a statement to Axios published May 24.

That same day, defense attorneys in Trump's New York criminal trial were cross-examining Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who testified that Trump instructed him to spend $130,000 to buy the silence of a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.

A spokeswoman for Schwarzman did not return a request for comment.

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