Howard Schultz laments 'character assassination' as he mulls 2020 White House run

Howard Schultz laments 'character assassination' as he mulls 2020 White House run
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Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz reportedly said Monday he "never thought" he would get so much criticism for his potential 2020 White House bid.

During a book event in Alabama, Schultz expressed surprise at the "character assassination" he says he's faced from Democrats since expressing interest in a third-party run, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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“I’ve never thought I’d be criticized as much. I didn’t think this would be a character assassination [from Democrats]," Schultz said. "I think the concerns the American people have are greater than the threat to the two-party system.”

Schultz went on to tell CNN's Van Jones, as he has said before, that he does not intend to "jeopardize" the chances of removing President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE from the Oval Office.

“I don’t think that answer can be answered in March of 2019. We’re 18 months away and a lot could happen,” he reportedly added. “I won’t do anything to jeopardize the critical importance of removing this president from the Oval Office.”

Schultz's comments come as he has faced weeks of criticism from prominent 2020 Democrats, including Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses Pollster says 'it's certainly not looking good' for Trump ahead of 2020 Big Tech is not the enemy, Sen. Warren MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWarren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses RNC says it raised .6 million in February Pollster says 'it's certainly not looking good' for Trump ahead of 2020 MORE (I-Vt.), for hinting at a third-party bid. They have accused him of using his substantial wealth to "buy" political influence and raise clout around his announcement and fear he could split the liberal vote.

"What's 'ridiculous' is billionaires who think they can buy the presidency to keep the system rigged for themselves while opportunity slips away for everyone else," Warren tweeted, responding to Schultz's characterization of her tax plan as "ridiculous."

Sanders attacked Schultz during a CBS interview, telling host John Dickerson that Schultz's status as a billionaire was the only reason his speculation about a bid for the White House was getting attention.

"Because we have a corrupt system, anybody who is a billionaire and can throw a lot of TV ads around on television suddenly becomes very, very credible," the senator said in February.

"So Mr. Schultz, what is he blackmailing the Democratic Party? If you don't nominate Bernie Sanders, he's not going to run?" Sanders added. "Well, I don't think we should succumb to that kind of blackmail."