New biz group chief on Trump criticism: ‘That was then, this is now’
The Business Roundtable on Wednesday announced that it has chosen Joshua Bolten, a former chief of staff to President George W. Bush, as its next chief executive.
Bolten had criticized president-elect Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, but said that’s in the past.
“Lots of stuff gets said in campaigns. That was then, this is now,” Bolten said in an interview with The Hill on Wednesday.
Bolten said he looks forward to working with the new administration at the Roundtable, one of Washington’s most influential lobbying groups.
“The important thing about now is that Donald Trump has been elected president. He and his team have earned the benefit of the doubt about their stewardship of the country and the economy.”
“In my role as incoming CEO of the Business Roundtable, I’m very excited about the opportunity to work with the administration and leadership on the Hill on what promises to be a pro-growth economic agenda.”
During the 2016 election cycle, Bolten was critical of Trump, saying in a leaked March email to other Bush administration alumni that the businessman “isn’t fit for the office our former boss held with such distinction.”
Nominating Trump, he wrote, would cost Republicans “its standing as the defender of limited government, constitutional principle, and American leadership — leaving it crippled for years to come,” he wrote, The Washington Examiner reported.
Since the election, Bolten has praised how Trump has handled the nomination process.
During a panel held by the Council on Foreign Relations on the transition, Bolten said that those who disagree with Trump should consider joining his administration.
“You go into government and you’re always having to do things you disagree with, there’s no question about that,” Bolten said at that panel. “But you certainly don’t violate any moral principles — but I think people can go in and give this administration a chance, see how it goes.”
The Business Roundtable (BRT), which is comprised of CEOs from some of America’s largest companies, is coming under new leadership as Trump takes office.
Bolten will succeed former Michigan Gov. John Engler (R), who has led the organization since January 2011, on Jan. 23. Engler, who announced his retirement last month, is staying with the organization through the summer to “ensure a successful transition.”
Last month, Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, was named the BRT’s chairman.
Dimon’s name had been floated as a potential Treasury secretary in the Trump administration, although he said he was not interested in the position. He is serving as an informal advisor on Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, a group made up of CEOs set up to advise the president.
In a statement, Dimon called Bolten the “right choice at the right time.”
“His impressive experience at the highest levels of government and the private sector gives him the stature and ability to navigate complex issues and to help to bridge differences to find collaborative and common sense solutions,” Dimon said.
“I’m an optimist. I believe good public policy will drive meaningful and lasting economic growth,” he added.
The addition of Bolten could be a coup for the Roundtable, which has spent more than $84 million lobbying the federal government since 2011, according to disclosure records.
In addition to serving as Bush’s chief of staff, Bolten also worked as the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, as general counsel to the U.S. trade representative, as chief trade counsel to the Senate Finance Committee and as an attorney at the State Department. In the private sector, Bolten worked in Goldman Sachs’s London office and at the law firm O’Melveny & Myers.
The BRT has focused much of its agenda on helping the push for President Obama’s trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. While Trump has promised to withdraw the United States from that deal, Bolten expressed optimism about the overall approach trade.
“I think there’s going to be a lot that the business community and the Trump administration can work closely on in the trade area,” Bolten told The Hill.
“BRT has always been a strong advocate for a strong and robust international trading system, in addition to a level playing field on which American companies can compete. I understand the Trump message to be about that level playing field.”
In his interview with The Hill, Bolten noted that he’s forged close relationships during his career with many of the people who will be serving in Trump’s administration.
Under Bush, Bolten worked with Elaine Chao, who was then the secretary of Labor. Trump has nominated her for secretary of Transportation.
Bolten said he has also formed a close relationship with Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who will be Trump’s chief of staff, and worked with Gary Cohn, the incoming head of the National Economic Council, at Goldman Sachs.
Bolten now serves as a managing director at Rock Creek Global Advisors, an economic policy advisory firm with international corporate clients that he co-founded in 2011.
– This story was updated at 2:30 p.m.