How some of Donald Trump’s business allies are reacting to federal indictment


(NEW YORK) — The indictment of former President Donald Trump on federal charges last week has elicited outcry from many of his prominent supporters in Washington D.C., who have denounced the prosecution as politically motivated or downplayed the alleged crimes.

While many of Trump’s top allies in the business community have largely remained quiet, some of Trump’s supporters in the private sector spoke with ABC News, offering a range of views about the case brought by special counsel Jack Smith and the alleged crimes.

The business allies also weighed in on whether the indictment would affect plans for further donations to the Trump campaign, and explained why they believe many of their peers haven’t spoken out.

Trump faces 37 counts tied to what prosecutors said were the mishandling of classified documents and the obstruction of an investigation into the alleged misconduct. The classified documents at issue, according to the indictment, included information about nuclear programs and potential national security vulnerabilities.

Taken together, the charges could bring decades in prison if found guilty. Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in court. Following the arraignment, the former president criticized Smith and falsely claimed that he was able to keep classified documents under the Presidential Records Act.

John Catsimatidis, a New York-based billionaire who donated at least $600,000 in support of Trump’s 2020 and 2016 presidential campaigns, downplayed Trump’s alleged misconduct but affirmed the legitimacy of the court proceeding.

Speaking about the federal charges against Trump, Catsimatidis belittled the case as “nickel and dime.”

Still, Catsimatidis said he trusts the court system to adjudicate the charges against Trump.

“Let it go through the system,” said Catsimatidis, the owner of the grocery store chain Gristedes.

Stan Pate, whose Alabama-based company BPH Properties made a $500,000 donation in support of Trump in November, forcefully denounced the federal charges against Trump and vowed to bolster his support for Trump’s candidacy if he is found guilty.

The charges amount to a “complete outrage,” said Stephen Moore, who served as an economic adviser for Trump’s 2016 campaign.

However, Moore said that he is “not a lawyer.”

“No one is above the law,” added Moore, a fellow in economics at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation. “I can’t assess whether he violated this law or that law.”

As with some prominent Republican elected officials, Catsimatidis and Pate said the indictment was political.

There is no evidence that Biden influenced the decision to charge Trump. For his part, Smith was a federal prosecutor for nearly 10 years, and oversaw the DOJ’s public integrity section, where he investigated members of both parties.

Hours before Trump’s indictment became public, Biden said Americans should trust the Department of Justice, despite attacks from Trump and others.

“I have never once, not one single time suggested to the Justice Department what they should do or not do relative to bringing a charge or not bringing a charge,” Biden said.

Catsimatidis and Pate both said the indictment would not affect their decision-making about future donations in support of Trump.

Pate, who was set to attend a meet-and-greet event with Trump at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey on Tuesday night, said he will “certainly be donating to his campaign in the future.”

If Trump is found guilty of federal crimes in the documents case, Pate said he would “double down.”

“If you believe in somebody and have confidence in him, why would you abandon him and take away your support,” Pate added. “I might triple down.”

Catsimatidis, who donated more than $100,000 in support of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, said contributions are the “cost of doing business.”

“I donate money because when I pick up the phone and call people, I like them to answer the phone,” Catsimatidis said.

The indictment is unlikely to affect donations from staunch backers of Trump, Candice Nelson, a professor of government at American University and academic director of The Campaign Institute, told ABC News.

“If they’re strong supporters of Trump, they’ll believe what he’s telling them,” Nelson said.

ABC News contacted more than two dozen current and former allies of Trump within the private sector about the indictment, including many who have offered him economic policy advice and donated millions of dollars in support of his presidential campaigns.

Most of the backers declined to comment or did not reply.

When asked why most of Trump’s business allies passed up an opportunity to comment on the indictment, Catsimatidis said: “They’re scared stiff.”

“There are very few people,” he added. “who are willing to stand up and say that it’s right or it’s wrong.”

Most major Trump donors, Moore said, have not spoken publicly about the indictment because they “don’t want to be front and center on this kind of controversy.”

“They want to stay behind the scenes,” Moore added.

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