Trump’s Republican megadonors shrugged off his guilty verdict

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

“I haven’t heard of anyone who cares,” said New York businessman and Republican donor Andy Sabin, when asked if major G.O.P employees who he knows are concerned about the verdict in the trial against Trump.

Many of the party’s wealthiest donors tell CNBC they plan to remain in Trump’s corner, despite him being found guilty of all 34 crimes in New York.

The donor sentiment marks a shift for some Republican megadonors, who initially sought an alternative to Trump during the party’s presidential primaries, driven by the belief that the former president’s legal troubles would prove fatal to his campaign to replace President Joe Biden weaken.

Now: “There’s no concern about that,” a longtime Republican fundraiser told CNBC. ‘Maybe a year ago [the trials mattered]. Now, none.”

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

The great donor solidarity with Trump is also reflected in Trump’s fundraising figures. Trump’s trial on 34 felony counts of falsifying company 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 Thursday after the verdict, prompting his aides to direct potential donors to another page.

Trump and the RNC announced that they had together raised more than $76 million in April. Biden’s team announced that its political operation, which includes the Democratic National Committee, raised $51 million during the same period.

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

He called Trump’s trial in New York “frivolous” and “absurd” and added: “Trump will have no problem raising money.”

Omeed Malik, the president of 1789 Capital and a Trump bundler, told CNBC that he believes the guilty verdict will “completely backfire, just like the charges, which are [Trump’s] support.”

Malik co-hosted a Trump fundraiser New York on May 14, it grossed more than $10 million.

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

“I think if anyone had told you after January 6 that the country would be where it is today, it would have been difficult to figure that out,” Tamasi said. He pointed to problems he has had with Biden’s handling of the US-Mexico border, as well as the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

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

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

Now, Tamasi says, he plans to come back to help Trump again, and probably also to raise money for him.

A Republican business consultant recalled to CNBC how he recently had conversations with nearly a dozen lobbyists who privately ripped Trump after Jan. 6 and in the run-up to his trial in New York.

They’re all going back to raise money for Trump, despite the guilty verdict.

But perhaps the most telling sign of how Republican megadonors view Trump’s legal troubles 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 “terrible” and said he was “shocked and horrified by this mob’s attempt to undermine our Constitution.”

In 2022, the billionaire and longtime Republican donor announced that it was “time for the Republican Party to turn to a new generation of leaders,” an apparent swipe at the party’s former leader Trump. Schwarzman also said he planned to support one of these “new” leaders in the 2024 presidential election.

But fast forward two years, and Schwarzman has changed his tune. After not endorsing any of the Republican primary contenders, Schwarzman announced he will support Trump’s bid for the White House. “I plan to vote for change and support Donald Trump for president,” Schwarzman said in a statement to Axios published on May 24.

That same day, lawyers in Trump’s criminal trial in New York questioned Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who testified that Trump instructed him to spend $130,000 to buy a porn star’s silence ahead of the 2016 election.

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

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