Business leaders once allied with Trump now condemn him for stoking violence

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Thursday, January 7, 2021

A bevy of energy business interests in Washington who once cheered on President Trump’s agenda are now blaming him for stoking rhetoric that led to a pro-Trump mob violent storming the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said he found the footage of rioters breaking into the Capitol and clashing with police “absolutely sickening” and “heartbreaking.”

Asked about Trump’s role, Sommers said, “I blame him completely.”

“He has proven himself unworthy of the office of being president,” Sommers added. Referring to the demonstrators who stormed the House and Senate, Sommers said: “This country has relied on the peaceful transfer of power since our founding. What happened today was an absolute outrage and the parties responsible should be held accountable.”

API, the largest lobbying group for the petroleum industry in Washington, is nonpartisan. But Sommers arrived there in 2018 squarely from the realm of Republican politics, having worked for two decades for former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The siege stirred the ire of business leaders, who crave predictability from government, like never before during Trump’s term.

Their days of once applauding the tax cuts and deregulatory actions of the Trump administration appear to be over after Trump used incendiary language and urged his supporters to head to the Capitol earlier Wednesday. He then tweeted after the mob broke out that “[t]hese are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away” and continued falsely claiming he won the November election.

An individual major oil company, Chevron, is now taking the unusual step of calling for “peaceful transition” to the Biden administration.

Unions and a manufacturing group are calling on Vice President Pence and Trump’s Cabinet to remove him from office.

Jay Timmons, head of the National Association of Manufacturers, which represents 14,000 companies from across energy-intensive industrial sectors, called on those around Trump to “seriously consider” invoking the 25th Amendment to boot him from office with just two weeks left in his term.

“The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy,” Timmons said. “Anyone indulging conspiracy theories to raise campaign dollars is complicit.”

Timmons, too, previously worked for elected Republicans, including as chief of staff to Sen. George Allen (R-Va.). His group successfully lobbiedthe Trump administration to lift a moratorium on coal-mining leases and rewrite the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

North America’s Building Trades Unions, an alliance of 14 construction unions, including electric workers and pipe fitters, similarly called for Trump to “immediately step down.”

“If he refuses, the Cabinet must immediately invoke the 25th amendment to remove the President,” Sean McGarvey, the group’s president, said. “Any less action by the Cabinet, and America should consider them all co-conspirators.”

That’s a far cry from what McGarvey called their “common bond with the president” during Trump’s first year in office, when the president was promising to boost infrastructure spending.

And Thomas Donohue, chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, similarly condemned the violence: “The attacks against our nation’s Capitol Building and our democracy must end now. The Congress of the United States must gather again this evening to conclude their constitutional responsibility to accept the report of the Electoral College.”

The energy sector have moved from Trump’s defeat weeks ago, despite his refusal to concede.

Before Trump’s defeat, the oil and gas group strung up a series of policy wins with the rollback of safety rules meant to prevent another Deepwater Horizon spill and protections for birds that die in uncovered industrial pits.

But they also acknowledged and congratulated Biden on his win well before many Republican lawmakers did — eager to make sure they have seat at the table when it comes to crafting Biden’s policies on climate change and other issues.

Steven Mufson contributed to this report.