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Politics

A business leader, who's a vocal supporter of Trump, explains what corporations want

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The former president is also meeting with business leaders today, CEOs at a group called the Business Roundtable. A lot of business leaders denounced Trump as a chaos agent after he tried to overturn the election he lost in 2020, but many are now preparing for the possibility that Trump returns to office. And our friends at Politico report that some are at least thinking about supporting him again. John Catsimatidis has been Trump's friend for decades, is supporting Trump and has also supported Democrats in the past. He's on the line. He is, if you don't know, the CEO of the New York grocery chain Gristedes, where I have shopped, and head of the real estate company Red Apple Group. Mr. Catsimatidis, welcome to the program.

JOHN CATSIMATIDIS: Well, thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: What case would you make to a business leader who believes Trump is dangerous and unstable?

CATSIMATIDIS: Well, you know, President Biden has promised people - he promised the poor he's going to take care of them. He made the poor people in America poorer, and he made the middle class poorer. Since his war on gasoline and fossil fuels, the price of gasoline has doubled. The price of food has gone up 30%, 40% because it's directly related to gas. The interest rates have doubled and tripled. A 30-year mortgage is 7%. Right now, with Jay Powell not reducing interest rates yet...

INSKEEP: Right.

CATSIMATIDIS: ...He has put 675 banks in danger. There are now 675 banks on the watchlist. Now...

INSKEEP: Let me just stop you for a second. You've given us a bunch of numbers, and they're largely correct. Inflation is up, or was up. It's now falling a little bit, but very, very slowly. At the same time, I've got a note, you talked about the middle class. Wages are finally rising in this country, and the DOW is up 45% since Biden defeated Trump in 2020. What disappoints business leaders about that?

CATSIMATIDIS: Nothing. The people that are at hedge funds are having a great time. People that own stocks are having a great time. But I'm a businessman. I run companies day to day, and we're concerned about the interest rates. We're concerned about the real estate industry is about to take - how do they say it in Brooklyn? - take the pipe. That's not a good word.

INSKEEP: Does that mean get hit by a pipe? Is that what that means?

CATSIMATIDIS: Yes, just about.

INSKEEP: OK.

CATSIMATIDIS: And the banks are having a hard time, and like I said, 675 banks are on the Fed's watchlist. And interest rates have to come down, otherwise there's going to be - those banks are going to be in trouble. The real estate industry is going to be in trouble.

INSKEEP: OK, so let's talk about this a little more though. I mean, you're making it clear that you prefer Trump's economic policies to Biden's, or you're critiquing Biden's economic policy. But let's talk about...

CATSIMATIDIS: It's not affecting my lifestyle. It's affecting the lifestyle of the poor...

INSKEEP: I gotcha, I gotcha. But let's talk about Trump back in office. Stephen Schwarzman, to talk about one of your other CEOs, once called the January 6 attack on the Capitol an affront to the democratic values of the country. Now he's back on board for Trump. I get that he likes the economic policies better. It sounds like you like the economic policies better. But is there not a downside in the risk to American institutions?

CATSIMATIDIS: There was no wars under President Trump for four years. President Trump is well-respected...

INSKEEP: But what about - there was a January 6 attack, though. Can we talk about that? Like, the attempt to overturn the election, the denial of reality, does that bother you?

CATSIMATIDIS: Well, do you have a copy of the tape where Nancy Pelosi - it was turned over to the Congress by HBO that Nancy Pelosi admitting it was her mistake not calling in the troops early.

INSKEEP: I grant the argument about security on January 6.

CATSIMATIDIS: OK, that's what happened.

INSKEEP: But it was the former president who said he won the election that he lost. I'm just wondering if you're worried about that happening again.

CATSIMATIDIS: You know, at the end of the day, you know, President Trump - I know him for a long time - he gets rattled up. But at the end of the day, he has more common sense than many.

INSKEEP: Common sense?

CATSIMATIDIS: Yes.

INSKEEP: Would you - are you concerned about him seeking revenge against his enemies, which is a thing that he has explicitly said in campaign speeches that he will do?

CATSIMATIDIS: I am sure that, 3 o'clock in the morning, he feels like that. But I don't think he would do it, and I would advise him not to do it.

INSKEEP: But, I mean, he says it during the day, not just at 3 o'clock in the morning.

CATSIMATIDIS: Well, you know, people get - you know, if you stay in court - if you're in court for three weeks, getting - you know, you would be upset, too.

INSKEEP: One thing about that in the 30 seconds that we've got, a jury of 12 New Yorkers found him guilty of a felony. I know his supporters found the entire thing unjust. But some people, who may be your customers at Gristedes, found him guilty. And is that not worthy of some respect and concern here?

CATSIMATIDIS: No. It's like being found guilty in - remember the movie "My Cousin Vinny"?

INSKEEP: Sure.

CATSIMATIDIS: It's like being found guilty by the same judge in "My Cousin Vinny."

INSKEEP: OK. John Catsimatidis, it's a pleasure talking with you. I've enjoyed it. Thank you very much.

CATSIMATIDIS: Thank you so much.

INSKEEP: He is CEO of the Red Apple Group and a supporter of Donald Trump, who is meeting a bunch of CEOs in Washington, D.C., today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Politics
Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.