Now, in the closing days of what has been arguably the most controversial presidency in US history, the gloves are off.
U.S. business leaders are hitting the airwaves and lining up to condemn the outgoing president for cheering on those who violently stormed the U.S. Capitol this week.
Some have dismissed employees identified as participating in the riots.
And others have sought to curtail Mr. Trump’s ability to campaign or make money from selling merchandise, such as Shopify, the Canadian e-commerce giant whose platform previously hosted two of its. Web sites.
It has been a long time coming.
Even before his election in November 2016, it was remarkable how few business leaders were ready to publicly support Mr. Trump.
In contrast, her Democratic rival that year, Hillary Clinton, could unveil a series of endorsements from business leaders.
These didn’t just include well-known Democratic backers like Warren Buffett, the investment titan, Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, and Eric Schmidt, then CEO of parent company Google Alphabet.
They also included longtime Republican supporters such as Jim Cicconi, a senior executive at telecommunications giant AT&T, who had worked in the White House under Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush.
Other longtime Republicans who backed Clinton included Dan Akerson, the former chairman and CEO of General Motors, and Meg Whitman, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
The American Chamber of Commerce, America’s largest business lobbying organization and generally a reliable Republican supporter, also campaigned against Mr. Trump, signaling concerns over what were seen as his protectionist policies.
The mood of business leaders in 2016 was best summed up by Barry Diller, the billionaire at the head of the online giant IAC, a former supporter of the Democrats but also of the former Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
He said, “Donald Trump, all he is is conflict, and all he is is negative conflict.” It’s a self-promoting junk that has found a vein. A vein of wickedness and wickedness. ”
After his election, Mr. Trump sought to rally business leaders, appointing Rex Tillerson, the former chairman of oil giant Exxon, as his first secretary of state.
At the same time, he appointed Gary Cohn, former managing director of investment bank Goldman Sachs, to the post of director of its National Economic Council.
He also set up a Strategy and Policy Forum, led by Steve Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of private equity giant Blackstone, which included executives from blue chip companies like Disney, Walmart and IBM.
He also thrilled businesses early in his presidency with the biggest overhaul of the complex US tax system in three decades, slashing the US corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, immediately increasing competitiveness.
Companies responded with give part of the money saved to employees.
Yet cracks quickly began to appear in Mr. Trump’s relationship with business leaders.
Weeks after taking office, the president signed an executive order banning travel to the United States from seven countries in the Middle East, drawing criticism from Ford, Goldman Sachs and Starbucks.
Members have also begun to resign from Mr. Trump’s strategic and political forum.
The first to leave, to protest Mr. Trump’s immigration policies, was Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber, who resigned in February 2017.
Four months later, he was followed by Bob Iger of Disney and Elon Musk of Tesla, who were angered by Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement.
Two months later, Mr. Trump drew more criticism with his reaction to violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Ken Frazier, chairman and CEO of drug giant Merck and one of the country’s top African-American leaders, responded with resign from the President’s American Manufacturing Council.
He was followed by Brian Krzanich, the general manager of Intel and Kevin Plank, the general manager of Under Armor.
Within days, members of the Strategy and Policy Forum had spoken and agreed to wind up the organization, but before he could announce the move, Mr. Trump used Twitter to announce that he was dissolving both the forum and manufacturing advice.
Charlottesville was a pivotal moment when many business leaders broke with Mr. Trump for good.
At the same time, highlighting its weak response to violence, a number of companies – including Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, American Express, and later Apple – have blocked white supremacist websites from using their services. of payment.
Mr. Trump continued to alienate businessmen by erecting tariffs on a range of imported goods and sparking – or escalating – trade disputes with China and the EU while Mr. Tillerson saw himself show the door in March 2018.
If Charlottesville was a key moment in the relationship between business leaders and Mr. Trump, the next was the Black Lives Matter protests, which prompted many companies to talk stridently about racial inequalities.
In last year’s election, no major business leader endorsed Mr. Trump, while days later his successor Joe Biden held virtual meetings with a number of top business leaders. ‘company.
This week violence à Washington DC – and Mr. Trump’s response – has only reinforced the sense of relief most American business executives feel at his impending departure.
Nelson Peltz, the billionaire investment manager, told CNBC: “I voted for Trump in this last election in November, and today I’m sorry I did. ”
The Business Roundtable, which represents 200 of America’s largest corporations and is currently chaired by Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, said Wednesday: “The chaos unfolding in the nation’s capital is the result of illegal efforts to overturn the legitimate results of an election democracy. The country deserves better.
“Business Roundtable calls on the president and all relevant officials to end the chaos and facilitate the peaceful transition of power. ”
And perhaps most powerful, the National Manufacturers Association, whose board of directors includes executives from Dow Chemical, Exxon and General Electric, has urged Mike Pence, the vice president, to consider invoking the 25th amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office.
Perhaps not surprisingly, business leaders have little in common with Mr. Trump. They believe in globalization and duty-free trade. Mr. Trump did not.
What will be interesting to see is how many of them, who now seem to be getting closer to Mr. Biden, return to the Republicans if the latter abandons Trump’s baggage and becomes a free trade party again.