The political fallout of President Donald Trump’s decision to fire James Comey grew messier this week when news emerged that he had allegedly urged the FBI director to drop an investigation into Trump’s former aide. It’s another distraction for Trump’s legislative agenda, which many Republican donors embraced as a reason to support him even given their distaste for his personality.
And Trump perhaps threw fuel to the fire on Wednesday when Trump administration officials said he would not soon announce his move of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jersualem — a major issue to many of his top Jewish supporters.
“People think it’s a disaster. Wouldn’t mind seeing (Vice President Mike) Pence take over,” said one fundraiser close to pro-Israel givers, including Sheldon Adelson, Trump’s largest single benefactor.
An Adelson spokesman did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday on his reaction. But in a strong signal of his thinking, a close Adelson confidant Morton Klein, the head of an organization heavily funded by Adelson, was livid. Klein does not speak for Adelson, though he is unlikely to speak out of turn.
“We are deeply disappointed in Trump’s mistaken action,” Klein, the head of the Zionist Organization of America, told CNN. Klein said the Arab world would now feel emboldened to change Trump’s thinking on other issues. “This also harms the credibility of President Trump.”
Other Adelson allies were less nervous. Matt Brooks, the head of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a group funded heavily by Adelson, said he took comfort in that the White House decision was not final and that only “they decided they will not immediately do it.”
“At the end, I believe that President Trump will eventually honor his commitment to move the embassy,” Brooks told CNN. He said the RJC did not receive a heads up from the administration.
On Tuesday, Adelson, 83, was seen entering the Capitol Hill office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — it is unclear what message he delivered in the rare in-person visit.
Adelson is said to be closely watching Trump’s upcoming trip to Israel — the casino magnate will be in the country at the same time as Trump, and the person close to him said that while he may be “disappointed” now, the overseas trip will be “telling.” Thirty-five RJC donors and leaders are expected to be in Israel at the same time.
Other givers — including those who flocked to Trump early and are not traditional GOP donors — say they are less perturbed by the continual fracas.
“I am not troubled at all by all of bedlam surrounding the noise being generated by the Comey story,” said Tom Tellefsen, a major California Republican fundraiser. “I expected it from all of the anti-Trump forces out there, find it partisan in nature and am disappointed in the media’s level of attention to it.”
Tellefsen was courted by the bevy of outside pro-Trump groups during the campaign. One now seems to have the momentum: America First Policies, an outside group organized by White House allies to provide political cover for the administration, on Tuesday evening hosted a fundraiser attended by donor-favorite Pence.
And Pence on Wednesday created a new donor vehicle, a PAC called Great America Committee, to help fund his political travel. It is also intended to help transfer state-controlled political assets to the federal level.
The likeliest givers to these groups are the Trump true believers. Peter Zieve, a Seattle aerospace engineer, who had barely donated money to politics before he cut a $1 million check to a Trump group last fall, said he was not worried about the FBI firing interfering with his agenda.
“I support him 200%,” he said, adding a piece of Trump-esque advice: “Trump should fire everybody that was appointed by Obama.”