President Joe Biden delivers remarks regarding college campus protest in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday, May 2, 2024. (Photo by Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Rise of the ‘Never Bidens’

Donors who once worried more about Donald Trump now see the president’s bid for a second term as the greater threat to America.

Joe Biden’s threat last week to freeze arms shipments to Israel along with reports that his administration is withholding intelligence about Hamas leaders’ whereabouts has reverberated throughout U.S. politics. Now, some Never Trump donors say the Biden administration’s policy toward the Jewish state is such a betrayal they’re considering jumping on board the Trump train. 

Call it the rise of the Never Bidens, donors who once were more worried about Trump but now see Joe Biden’s bid for a second term the greater threat to America. The Free Press spoke with four donors who contributed tens of millions of dollars in the last election cycle. They say they are reconsidering their political giving in light of the president’s approach to the Israel-Hamas war. All of them expressed their frustration with Biden’s CNN interview last Wednesday, in which he said of Israel, “if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah.” 

Cliff Asness, a Republican donor who says he “spent well over seven figures” to support Trump’s primary opponent Nikki Haley, told The Free Press that “My ‘Never Again’ is trumping my ‘Never Trump’ these days.” 

“Biden is a huge disappointment, really a moral outrage with this arms embargo being only the latest and greatest outrage,” continued Asness, the co-founder of AQR Capital Management. “Despite my long opposition to him, this makes me more likely, though I haven’t quite gotten there yet, to see Trump as the better of two bad alternatives.”

Asness is not the only Never Trumper to move to the Never Biden camp. 

Billionaire entertainment mogul and major Democratic donor Haim Saban wrote of Biden’s policy switch in an email to two senior White House advisers last week: “Let’s not forget that there are more Jewish voters who care about Israel than Muslim voters that care about Hamas.” 

And after CNN aired Biden’s comments on Wednesday, hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, a registered Democrat, took to X to call the move “one of the worst acts against an ally of a sitting president ever. Hopefully, this means he won’t be sitting for longer.” 

David Friedman, who served as Trump’s ambassador to Israel and has been in touch with many Trump-skeptic Jewish donors though he has no official role on the campaign, told The Free Press that he has seen “more Jewish money coming in” for Trump in the election. 

“I think the announcement on Wednesday,” he said referring to Biden’s arms decision, “was the last straw for people who were already leaning very close to going for Trump. He continued, “There is clearly a change going on, people who are active in politics with big money, people who were never Trumpers or reluctant ‘hold your nose Trumpers’ are telling me that Trump has to win.” 

Michael Granoff, a managing partner of Maniv, a venture fund dedicated to clean transportation technology, told The Free Press that he voted for Joe Biden in 2020 but has lost confidence in the president: “I am not voting for Biden. I’m not saying I’m voting for Trump, but it’s a nonzero chance now.” Granoff was a staffer on the Clinton-Gore campaign and was a close friend of the late senator Joe Lieberman. These days he calls himself a political independent. He has given to campaigns for Rep. Ritchie Torres, the Bronx Democrat who has emerged as one of the most pro-Israel voices in Congress, as well as former Rep. Liz Cheney, who broke with Trump after January 6. 

Granoff said Biden’s current policy toward Israel’s war betrays the commitments he made after Hamas invaded the Jewish state on October 7. “The speech he gave on October 11 was one of the finest speeches a president has ever made,” he said. “Had he stuck to that policy, he would be leading in the race right now. I would be raising money for him.”

A new set of polls shows Biden trailing Trump in five of the six swing states that will likely decide the election. On Tuesday, the Biden administration approved a $1 billion arms package to Israel, but that did not include the large bombs and precision munitions the president announced he would be freezing if Israel proceeded with its operation in Rafah.

One politically connected New York bundler told The Free Press that the anti-Biden sentiment among pro-Israel donors has been rising steadily since March. “I trace it back to the State of the Union,” the source said. In that March 7 speech, Biden adopted the casualty figures of the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health, which do not separate dead civilians from dead combatants. What’s more, in April the ministry acknowledged its data was incomplete for 11,371 of the 33,091 deaths it had recorded, suggesting the totals Biden cited were exaggerated. As Peter Savodnik reported this week, even the UN now admits those numbers cannot be trusted. 

Last Thursday, Ackman reposted a statement from Trump, blasting Biden’s decision on his social media platform, Truth Social:

Crooked Joe Biden, whether he knows it or not, just said he will withhold weapons from Israel as they fight to eradicate Hamas Terrorists in Gaza. Hamas murdered thousands of innocent civilians, including babies, and are still holding Americans hostage, if the hostages are still alive.

Though Ackman contributed to both the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Al Gore and gave $1 million to Rep. Dean Phillips’ primary run against Biden this year, he has more recently declared himself a “centrist” who “will vote for and support whoever is best for our country regardless of their party affiliation.”

And now, he seems to be leaning toward Trump. 

In a comment under Trump’s statement, Ackman wrote simply: “@realDonaldTrump speaks the truth.” 

Eli Lake is a Free Press columnist. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @EliLake, and read his piece “Delusion in the White House. Bloodshed in Israel.

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