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Business leaders, citing damage to country, urge Trump to begin transition

More than 160 top American executives asked the Trump administration  to immediately acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect.
More than 160 top American executives asked the Trump administration to immediately acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect.Mark Makela/Getty

Concerned that President Trump’s refusal to accept the election results is hurting the country, more than 160 top American executives asked the administration on Monday to immediately acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect and begin the transition to a new administration.

Even one of Trump’s stalwart supporters, Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of Blackstone, the private equity firm, said in a statement that “the outcome is very certain today and the country should move on.” While he did not sign a letter sent to the administration by the other executives, he said he was “now ready to help President-elect Biden and his team.”

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Signatories to the letter included the chief executives of Mastercard, Visa, MetLife, Accenture, Carlyle Group, Condé Nast, McGraw-Hill, WeWork, and American International Group, among others. They included some of the most important players in the financial industry: David M. Solomon, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs; Laurence D. Fink, chief executive of the asset management giant BlackRock; Jon Gray, Blackstone’s president; and Henry R. Kravis, a prominent Republican donor who is the co-chief executive of KKR, a private equity firm.

The letter was also signed by George H. Walker, chief executive of the money manager Neuberger Berman and a second cousin to President George W. Bush, and Jeff T. Blau, the chief executive of one of New York City’s largest private developers, Related Cos., who has been a major donor to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, filings show.

As a way of gaining leverage over the GOP, some of the executives have also discussed withholding campaign donations from the two Republican Senate candidates in Georgia unless party leaders agree to push for a presidential transition, according to four people who participated in a conference call Friday in which the notion was discussed. The two runoff elections in Georgia, which will take place in early January, will determine the balance of power in the Senate.

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In the letter sent Monday, the business leaders demanded that Emily W. Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, issue a letter of ascertainment affirming that Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris had won the election. Murphy has so far resisted calls to begin normal transition planning, which includes providing resources and money to an incoming administration as it prepares to take control.

“Every day that an orderly presidential transition process is delayed, our democracy grows weaker in the eyes of our own citizens and the nation’s stature on the global stage is diminished,” the executives wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times. “Withholding resources and vital information from an incoming administration puts the public and economic health and security of America at risk.”

The initiative comes as Trump has refused to acknowledge Biden as the winner, subverted the nation’s electoral process with unfounded claims of fraud, and put pressure on state Republicans to try to impede certification of the results.

The Friday evening executive call, which included a group of about a dozen business leaders, was preceded by a meeting of Democratic state attorneys general that took place on Thursday evening, in which participants discussed what they could do to ensure an orderly transition. In the wake of that, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, was asked to approach business leaders in her jurisdiction about the possibility of pushing the stalled transition into motion.

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“She said they asked her to reach out to the New York business community,” Kathryn Wylde, the chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, said of James. Wylde took part in a call the next evening with James and the executives, who were donors to both political parties.

Wylde said James told the group that the attorneys general “thought that the New York business community” would “have influence in convincing Republicans around the country that this should be over, that the transition should be acknowledged, and that it was a frightening proposition that this would remain unresolved.”

James, in a statement, said, “This isn’t about partisan politics, but about protecting our democracy.”