Trump campaign chief urges Republican megadonors to ignore Trump's words, focus on primary lead, sources say

Former U.S. President Donald Trump waves to his supporters as he departs to attend his second civil trial in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit against him, outside Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York City, Jan. 26, 2024.

Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

A top advisor to Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign has a message for some of the wealthiest Republican donors in the country: Don’t take the former president’s divisive rhetoric too seriously.

Susie Wiles made the pitch Tuesday at a private gathering of the American Opportunity Alliance, a group of Republican megadonors led by Elliot Investment Management founder Paul Singer.

Speaking at the luxurious Four Seasons hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, Wiles encouraged the powerful donors to essentially ignore Trump’s more offensive remarks and focus instead on the fact that the former president is in pole position in the Republican primary for president, according to people familiar with her remarks.

Wiles conceded to the donors that Donald Trump is going to say things people don’t like. But she countered that the former president is poised to lock down his party’s nomination, and that he is the GOP’s best hope to defeat incumbent President Joe Biden, according to a person familiar with her remarks.

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Wiles’ effort to draw new donors into Trump’s fold came just days after the former president threatened people who had donated to his rival, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley.

“Anybody that makes a ‘Contribution’ to [Haley], from this moment forth, will be permanently barred from the MAGA camp. We don’t want them, and will not accept them,” Trump posted Jan. 24 on Truth Social.

Some of these same Haley donors were in the room Tuesday as Wiles made her pitch, according to the person, who was granted anonymity to describe the private meeting.

Wiles’ message to donors, to just ignore Trump’s hyperbolic rhetoric, is reminiscent of the spin from White House staff while Trump was president. As the single most powerful person in the world at the time, Trump’s social media posts frequently moved financial markets, for better and for worse.

Trump’s aides would frequently emphasize that his tweets did not represent the administration’s official policies.

“They are not policy,” White House national security official Sebastian Gorka memorably claimed in 2017, when asked about Trump’s tweets.

In Palm Beach on Tuesday, Wiles’ pitch appeared to work, at least on some of the participants. After Wiles’ remarks, aides to some of the American Opportunity Alliance members were overheard asking Wiles for her contact information, in case their bosses wanted to donate to Trump, the sources said.

Neither Wiles nor a Trump campaign spokesperson responded to CNBC’s requests for comment before publication. Likewise, a representative for Singer did not immediately respond to an inquiry from CNBC.

Trump currently leads Haley in her home state of South Carolina by around 30 percentage points, according to a Real Clear Politics polling average. The Palmetto State will hold its Republican primary on Feb. 24.

Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney also made a pitch to the Singer-backed donor group Tuesday, according to NBC News. While Ankney spoke to the Florida donors, the former South Carolina governor was attending a slew of fundraising events in New York City.

A spokeswoman for the Haley campaign said the events this week in New York raised over $1.5 million. This may sound like a lot of money, but in presidential politics, it appears to be a drop in the bucket.

Consider that the same day Wiles was speaking in Palm Beach, incumbent President Joe Biden, the GOP candidate’s likely opponent in November, was also raising campaign cash in the Sunshine State.

At a single cocktail party, Biden raised over $6 million for his reelection campaign and its allies.

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