If Trump held the bank in any real disdain, it seems safe to say the feeling was mutual. For years, Goldman had kept Donald Trump the businessman at bay. Other than a loan made to a building that Trump holds a minority stake in, Goldman does not appear to have ever made a loan to Trump, or to his real-estate or country-club projects. It has never underwritten any of the debt or equity offerings of his casinos, many of which have gone bankrupt. According to The New York Times and my own sources, incoming recruits were instructed, in orientation sessions, to stay away from Trump and clients like him. (Goldman denies this.) One former vice president at the firm, who used to provide financing to other New York City real-estate developers, told me in 2013 that he knew better than to mention the name Donald Trump while on the job. “I did not look at anything for Trump when I was at Goldman,” he said, “but suffice it to say I didn’t attempt to.” Staying away from Trump was good risk management.
Goldman was not unique on Wall Street in shunning Trump. Aside from Deutsche Bank, nearly every firm avoided Trump and what was commonly known on Wall Street as “Donald risk.” And for good reason: His companies’ multiple bankruptcies cost investors and creditors billions.
Still, Goldman’s unease with Trump seemed especially palpable. Hillary Clinton received the most money from Goldman employees and affiliated pacs—more than $340,000—during the 2016 election cycle; contributions to Trump’s campaign, by contrast, totaled less than $5,000, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
My goodness, though—what a difference an Electoral College victory makes. Now, it seems, Donald Trump cannot get enough of Goldman Sachs, and vice versa. As has been well documented, Goldman alumni have poured into the new administration. Trump tapped Gary Cohn, Blankfein’s longtime heir apparent, to lead the National Economic Council. Cohn, a registered Democrat, is said to be close to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. Since Cohn was appointed, on December 12, he has had regular access to Trump, and is reportedly among the president’s most influential advisers.
For Treasury secretary, Trump chose Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman partner whose father was also a Goldman partner. Mnuchin, who left the firm after 17 years in 2002 and later started a hedge fund, served as the Trump campaign’s finance chairman. Many people thought it was crazy for Mnuchin to tie himself to Trump. “Nobody’s going to be like, ‘Well, why did he do this?’ if I end up in the administration,” Mnuchin told Bloomberg last summer. Anthony Scaramucci, who did two tours of duty at Goldman before starting SkyBridge Capital, a hedge fund, moved to sell the business a few days before Trump’s inauguration, with the expectation of working in the White House’s public-engagement office. That appointment was derailed, but Scaramucci still hopes to get a role in the administration. Dina Habib Powell, another Goldman partner, has been appointed “senior counselor for economic initiatives” in the White House. Powell is close to Ivanka Trump and will likely be an advocate for her interests in the West Wing. Trump also nominated Jay Clayton, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, Goldman Sachs’s longtime law firm, to be the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Clayton’s wife is a vice president at Goldman. Steve Bannon spent almost five years at Goldman beginning in 1985, although his position as chief strategist owes more to his nationalism than to his banking background.