Jets owner Woody Johnson is privately pressuring major GOP donors to donate to Trump’s campaign


US President Donald Trump (right) gestures while speaking with US Ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson (left) prepares to board Marine One to depart the US Ambassador’s residence Winfield House in London on July 13, 2018.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Billionaire New York Jets owner Woody Johnson is part of a very small group within former President Donald Trump’s inner circle: wealthy supporters willing to invest their personal capital to persuade major Republican donors to donate to Trump’s presidential campaign.

Not only is Johnson backing Trump himself, he’s also doing something more important: pressuring members of the informal Republican billionaires’ club to return to the Trump fold, said several Johnson allies who were granted anonymity in order to report private conversations.

“Team Johnson’s pitch was: ‘Trump is going to be Trump based on the polls,'” one Republican fundraiser familiar with the engagement told CNBC. Are you not going to ride the train while Trump is on track to be the nominee?

Beyond reaching out to fellow donors, Johnson has also indicated that he plans to help organize and host fundraisers for Trump as next year’s primary season begins, when pivotal caucuses and primaries begin, a person close to the Jets owner said.

So far, many of the biggest names in GOP fundraising, such as Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, steel magnate Andy Sabin, and real estate mogul Stephen Ross, have been reluctant to “ride on the train” with Trump. Many of them said privately and publicly that they were disillusioned with the former president after his first term ended with the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

But not Johnson. Johnson, a longtime personal friend of Trump and his ambassador to the United Kingdom from 2017 to 2021, has told friends that he is helping his former boss reclaim the White House in 2024, according to people familiar with the matter.

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So far, they said, none of the controversies involving Trump have been resolved, nor the 91 criminal charges he faces in state and federal court, nor his continued false insistence that he won the 2020 election, nor even the riots on Capitol Hill that resulted in more than 370 prison sentences So far, Johnson has downplayed Trump’s support.

On the contrary, Johnson remained personally close to Trump throughout the post-presidential period. Since April, friends of Johnson say he has participated in meetings and attended small, private dinners with the former president at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Florida.

At a CNN town hall in New Hampshire in May, the former president publicly thanked a man he described as “friendly.” Gesture Throw a football. At the time, it was not clear exactly what Trump was referring to.

It was Johnson, a person with direct knowledge later told CNBC, adding that Trump’s team gave the planes owner and his aides special tickets to the event.

Those close to Johnson believe that if Trump is elected president in 2024, the billionaire would accept a job in a second Trump administration, largely because of how much he enjoyed his years as ambassador.

A spokesman for Johnson declined to comment. A representative for the planes and a Trump campaign spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune with a net worth of just over 3 billion dollarsJohnson has already donated 1 million dollars to the pro-Trump political action committee, “Make America Great Again,” in April of this year.

The contribution made Johnson one of just seven donors to give $1 million or more to a political action committee in the first half of this year, according to Federal Election Commission records.

But while very few of Trump’s wealthiest donors in 2016 and 2020 have donated to his current campaign, Not because RThey shelled out millions to help his primary opponents as well.

Robert Mercer and Rebecca Mercer attend the 2017 TIME 100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 25, 2017 in New York City.

Patrick McMullan | Getty Images

Instead, major contributors like Rebekah Mercer and Peter Thiel, people whose support would send an important signal to the rest of the donor class, appear to be sitting on the sidelines and waiting to see how the crowded Republican primary field shakes out before they make big gains. Donations.

But the sheer fact that GOP donors are still waiting to see what happens when one candidate dominates the field by more than 50 points is a testament to how reluctant they are to support Trump, and how determined they are to hold out hope that another Republican will. Winning the nomination.

A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that the former president received 62% support in the Republican primary, while his closest competitor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, received only 12%.

This gap between how strong Trump is in the polls versus how relatively weak his support is among major donors has added new urgency to Johnson’s calls to former contributors and their advisers to try to bring them back into Trump’s corner, according to people familiar with the outreach. .

For now, Johnson’s role remains largely behind the scenes. Since Trump left the White House, the two men have had only a few public interactions.

One of them was at a rally last year in favor of TV presenter Dr. Mehmet Oz’s failed Senate campaign.

When he took the stage, Trump shouted out Johnson.

“My friend is a great businessman and a great person, Mr. Woody Johnson and his wife, Susan Johnson,” Trump said.

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