- Insider built a database of the people and entities essential to Donald Trump’s rise to power and his norm-busting presidential conduct.
- Of the 125 individuals and entities, just four sought to distance themselves from Trump for the record.
- Whatever the verdict on the former president, the bitter politics of the Trump era may outlast him.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Many in Washington have been eager to turn the page on the Trump era. But just as most Republican voters believe Donald Trump should play a prominent role in the party, the vast majority of those who helped the mogul reach the White House continue to stick by him.
After Insider created a database of the 125 individuals and entities most responsible for Donald Trump’s rise to power, we reached out to as many as possible for comment. We wanted to know how they felt about their role in Trump’s ascent to the White House and the effort in Congress to bar him from seeking office again because of the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Just four distanced themselves from Trump, while another four reiterated their strong support and called the Senate impeachment trial a political witch hunt. The rest declined to comment or did not respond at all.
Some on the list who did get back to Insider have of course made their feelings about Trump well known. His adult children, and many of his aides, have remained staunch defenders. Conservative media figures have also largely remained on Team Trump.
Others who played roles in Trump’s rise to power are anything but supporters of the now-former president.
Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg tried unsuccessfully in 2020 to unseat Trump, whom he called a “carnival barking clown.” Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” now regularly do segments excoriating Trump. Piers Morgan, who is back in London hosting a morning show, was bluntly critical of Trump’s baseless insistence that he had been cheated out of a re-election victory, as was Chris Christie, the ex-New Jersey governor turned ABC News pundit.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer and now one of his most vocal critics, told Insider that he deeply regretted his role in Trump’s rise.
“I am the Dr. Frankenstein in that equation and he clearly is the out-of-control monster who unleashed a cascade of destruction and divisiveness during his presidency upon the country and the world,” he said in an interview.
Cohen, who in 2019 testified before Congress that Trump was a “racist, a con man, and a cheat,” said he was unsurprised that most Republican senators refused to convict the former president during his February trial.
“Donald will once again escape taking responsibility for his nefarious actions, something he has been successful in avoiding his entire life,” he said.
Others questioned their presence in this coterie of enablers after rebuking the president for years. The magazine Forbes helped Trump burnish his image among the nation’s elite by placing him on its annual list of the 400 richest people in America during the 1980s and 1990s. It later removed Trump after concluding he wasn’t telling the truth about his wealth.
“As we have chronicled previously, Donald Trump lied to inflate his standing on our lists,” a Forbes spokesman said. “There’s no crime to lying to a journalist but doing so does speak to character.”
But Trump’s willingness to fight his opponents and assert the election was stolen from him has galvanized his supporters to believe in him as fervently as ever.
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio made Insider’s list because of his outsized role before the 2016 election to help Trump gain a wider standing among some of the country’s most rabid conservatives. They both spread the same falsehood that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Arpaio, whose hardline stance on illegal immigration made him a national political figure, later endorsed Trump before any members of Congress.
In an interview, Arpaio said Republicans across the country back Trump more strongly than GOP officials in Washington because they continue to identify with him.
“He says what he likes to say and he doesn’t hold back. That’s why people love the guy,” Arpaio told Insider. “He’s going to get through this. My prediction is he’s going to have more support.”
Two other Trump supporters on Insider’s list defended their ties to the president. Mike Cernovich, an alt-right political commentator, said the populist energy in the country that brought Trump to the White House in 2016 is “stronger than ever.” And Ali Alexander, who helped organize the “Stop the Steal” rally on the Washington Mall on Jan. 6 called the impeachment proceedings an “illegitimate show trial.”
But some corporate leaders who have long standing relationships appear to believe their past affiliations with Trump and his family business is no longer to their benefit.
Deutsche Bank, which holds $340 million in outstanding loans to the Trump Organization, ceased doing business with the president’s company. Last December, Trump’s longtime banker Rosemary Vrablic also left Deutsche Bank. Vornado Realty is reportedly contemplating buying out Trump’s stakes in two commercial properties.
And then there’s Signature Bank President and CEO Joseph DePaolo. He called on Trump to resign immediately after the Jan. 6 attacks to ensure a peaceful transfer of power and the stability of the US government.
“We’ve gotten emails supporting what we said and not supporting what we said,” DePaolo told Insider. “They were far left and far right and some were downright vicious. Reading some of them, it looks like you would never change their minds.”