Buffett Supports Trump on Cabinet Picks ‘Overwhelmingly’

  • Billionaire speaks in New York at premiere of film on his life
  • Berkshire CEO says he wants prosperity, security for Americans

How Trump’s Cabinet Picks Will Help Drain the Swamp

Warren Buffett said he “overwhelmingly” supports President-elect Donald Trump’s choices for cabinet positions as the incoming commander-in-chief’s selections face confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate.

“I feel that way no matter who is president,” the billionaire Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman and chief executive officer said Thursday in New York at the premiere of a documentary about his life. “The CEO -- which I am -- should have the ability to pick people that help you run a place.”

Warren Buffett and Gloria Steinem

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

“If they fail, then it’s your fault and you got to get somebody new,” Buffett said. “Maybe you change cabinet members or something.”
 
Buffett, 86, backed Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, stumping for her in Omaha, Nebraska, and headlining fundraisers. The billionaire frequently clashed with Trump and scolded him for not releasing income-tax returns, as major party presidential candidates have done for roughly four decades.

Trump’s cabinet picks include Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker; former Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state; and retired Marine Corps General James Mattis as Defense secretary.

Since the election, Buffett has struck a more conciliatory tone toward Trump and called for unity. In an interview with CNN in November, he said that people could disagree with the president-elect, but ultimately he “deserves everybody’s respect.”

Trump’s Popularity

That message hasn’t resonated. Trump’s popularity is the worst for an incoming president in at least four decades, with just 40 percent of Americans saying they have a favorable impression of him, according to a Washington Post-ABC poll published Tuesday. Buffett said on Thursday that the low approval ratings won’t matter much.

“It’s what you go out with that counts -- 20, 50 years later what people feel you’ve achieved,” Buffett said.

The president-elect has continued his pugnacious style during the transition, picking fights on Twitter with news outlets, automakers, defense contractors, intelligence agencies, Hollywood actress Meryl Streep and civil rights hero-turned-U.S. Congressman John Lewis.

HBO Documentary

Buffett spoke on the red carpet at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The documentary, “Becoming Warren Buffett,” chronicles how the billionaire investor amassed one of the world’s largest fortunes and later decided to give the bulk of his wealth to charity. The film will air this month on HBO.

The Berkshire CEO said he hopes Americans are kept safe during the next administration, particularly in view of possible aggression from North Korea. And he said he’s looking for  “the people that haven’t participated in our incredible prosperity” to have a chance to do better.

“If they work 40 hours a week, they should have a decent life,” Buffett said. “That’s the most important thing in terms of the economy.”

Buffett sipped a Coke from McDonald’s after the screening as he greeted Berkshire executive Ajit Jain and Gloria Steinem, who’s scheduled to speak at the Women’s March on Washington.

Richard Plepler, CEO of HBO, said the timing of the premiere on the eve of the inauguration was "totally" a coincidence. But Buffett’s son Peter Buffett said the event felt like counter programming. 

A waiter in a Fruit of the Loom T-shirt

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

"There are some archetypes at work for sure, in terms of who my dad is and who the president-elect is and the place they hold," said the composer, musician and co-president of the NoVo Foundation.

At the HBO affair, guests gobbled up See’s Candies chocolates and Dairy Queen vanilla orange bars while waiters in Fruit of the Loom T-shirts carried trays decorated with Benjamin Moore paint swatches, to name a few of the brands in Berkshire’s holdings featured at the event.

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