Blankfein: I try to be honest about these things. I didn’t endorse Trump – I was picking him up – so I don’t feel that way personally, but I think as a group, this is what was happening: For Wall Street, it was less tax, less regulation. He was offering what “we” wanted. We put clothespins on our nose. We were not aware of the risks we were exposed to. We suppressed them.
Do you think the risks were well understood?
No one has reached the presidency more transparent and understanding of him. In the minutes leading up to his election, NBC tapes were out. Didn’t people believe the 20 women who came forward? Do people think he paid his taxes all that time? And certainly for the second election – what is left to know about?
So people knew what they were doing. They did it because of their self-interest. Think of another historical example: What about those wealthy people in Germany in the early 1930s who loved the fact that Hitler was rearming and industrializing, spending money and pulling them out of recession and driving the economy forward with his stimulus spending on war materials? I don’t want to overdo it, but just show you how I think about it.
So, yeah, they backed him. And I think that support wasn’t undone by a one-minute deathbed confession to the middle of the night that “Oh my God, that was too much for me.”
How do you feel about the people who went to work in the Trump administration? Many of them were Goldman alumni, including Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, who was a senior economic advisor.
I didn’t vote for it, but early on in management I had hopes and expectations that it would break to the high level, as most people do when they get to that office and sit behind that desk. So I don’t blame anyone for going early, like my friends at Goldman.
And once in, I really don’t make the mistake of people staying, because once you get inside, I would rather they be there than not there. I don’t think we would have been better off if Mnuchin had quit.