CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: Trian Partners CEO Nelson Peltz speaks with CNBC’s Sara Eisen on “Closing Bell” today and apologizes for voting for Trump in November.
Billionaire investor Nelson Peltz: I’m sorry I voted for Trump in November
SARA EISEN: Billionaire investor Nelson Peltz of Trian Partners who has been a longtime supporter and friend of President Trump out with this statement, “We condemn President Trump's efforts to overturn the election results which culminated in yesterday's shocking events at our Capitol. This President must commit to a peaceful transfer of power. We also implore President-elect Biden and congressional leaders to stop the infighting and work together for the good of our country every single American citizen deserves better governance.” Nelson Peltz joins us now by phone for a “Closing Bell” exclusive. Nelson, thank you for phoning in. Wanted to give you the chance to just expand on your statement with further reaction to those just incredibly shocking, terrible scenes that we saw – violent riots at the Capitol yesterday and the President egging them on.
NELSON PELTZ: First of all, happy New Year Sara.
EISEN: Happy New Year.
PELTZ: It's been quite a year so far. I thought last year was difficult. This was off to a horrible start in what we all saw occur yesterday in DC. I mean, it was so, so sad. It was scary. Whoever said it, it is a stain on America. You know, what we've learned is that we cannot continue to have our elected officials fight with one another. The enemy is outside the room. The enemy is not across the aisle. But what happened yesterday is a disgrace and I as an American, I'm embarrassed. You know, I didn't vote for Trump in ‘16. I voted for him in this past election in November. Today, I'm sorry I did that. I supported many of his policies which I still think we're good ones – trade efforts, economic policies. I think they're good for our country. But so much good was undone yesterday with what we all saw. And my partners and I all felt that we needed to speak out and that's why we issued that statement. You know, America has been to hell and back. It's become so tribal. And I just hope that President-elect Biden will act to bring us together. He's got full control of both houses. He needs to do that. We need to heal from Trump. It was really a devastating blow. And we just can't go on. And you know, Black Lives Matter took a lot of heat from certain sectors. And yesterday with what was going on, I saw at least one demonstrator standing in Congress – I don't know whether it was the Senate or the House – with a Camp Auschwitz t-shirt on.
EISEN: I saw that.
PELTZ: Nobody really got so upset about that. I mean, there's a lot more to be upset about by comparison to how upset they were about Black Lives Matter, I mean, that kind of stuff – just there's no place for it in our world. I mean we're supposed to not be doing this.
EISEN: 100%. You do point the finger squarely at President Trump and you just said that you regret voting for him in the last election. Do you regret the support? Financial? The friendship you've had with him? A lot of people do look at business leaders like yourself and wonder if you've enabled him. He's always had sort of these inclinations and these behaviors, even though, as you say, you've been very supportive of the policies, a lot of them economic.
PELTZ: I do – look, the economic policies that Trump put forth with, you know, our Secretary of Treasury's help, which were great policies – something we’ve needed American for decades, We've exported tens of millions of jobs and finally, we had a prescription to bring them back. And I hope Biden doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater and take some of that to heart and stay with it. But there is no room for what happened yesterday. This is – we're not a banana republic. This is the United States. And for what happened yesterday and, unfortunately, I have to say it – it was garnered by our leadership. Our leadership has got to understand what the priorities are. The priorities are America first. Then if you want to support your party, that's fine. But it must be America first. And that was out the window since this election was over. And Trump could have taken a different path. He could have accepted the results. He could have offered his friendship, his support, and his help for a transition to Biden. Having done that, his legacy would be 180 degrees different from what it is today. And that legacy –
EISEN: Do you think this will be his legacy?
PELTZ: Unfortunately, I – it's hard to believe that it's going to be something other than this. I mean, we have people shooting at each other in Congress. I mean, it’s beyond belief. And how can you say that is anything but his legacy? You know, I come from – I have a large family, I have ten kids and I have to tell you, some are Republicans and some Democrats. And I argued with my Democrats, because I felt that they didn't understand the economic implications of what the Trump administration had put forth. But all the good was gone, was thrown out over the course of the last month and finished yesterday. There's no place here for that. I mean I am emotionally upset. And it doesn't – it takes a lot to get me upset. I've been through a lot, but I've never seen anything like what I saw yesterday and I would never have believed it happened in our country. I hope that yesterday –
EISEN: Mick Mulvaney –
PELTZ: I hope we can learn from yesterday. I'm hoping that yesterday was a real turning point. We need to get out of this pandemic. We need to deal with some pressing issues, climate change, etc. Our leaders have to get to work, they have to work together. And we have to make yesterday a distant memory.
EISEN: 100%. I'm just going to bring up something that Mick Mulvaney said that I wanted to ask you about on “Squawk Box” earlier this morning. You know, he also stepped down in protest from his position with the administration and was asked about joining the administration to begin with. He said that the President is a very different person than he was say eight months ago. Do you agree with that? Have you spoken with the President at all in recent weeks about this issue?
PELTZ: I haven't spoken to him in the last several weeks because somebody put a new thing on my phone that says spam risk. And that spam risk put the White House calls in that category. So, every time I got a call from the White House it showed up –
PELTZ: Yeah, really, because, you know, that's just the way it happened and I didn't realize that until yesterday. The day before yesterday, pardon. But, you know, and Trump did a lot of very good things. He really did. He did things that neither Republican, nor Democrat had taken on. And he took it on successfully. And he started to change the way we dealt with our trading partners, our financial enemies, and our military enemies. And that was good. But with this, this was way beyond anything I've ever seen. And Trump, the election – not to take anything away from President-elect Biden – it was Trump against Trump. Trump lost to Trump. That's what happened. And it's unfortunate. And I just hope that President-elect Biden will pick up the pieces and make yesterday a turning point for this country because we really need it.
EISEN: Before that, there are concerns about what the next 13 days are going to look like, Nelson, with the Democratic leaders now calling for invoking the 25th Amendment. Is that something you think should be done? Is there a risk here, security risk here, of President Trump remaining in power for two weeks?
PELTZ: Look, I'm not a constitutional expert. I'm terribly disturbed by how polarized our government has become. In my humble opinion, they should let the next week and a half go by. We don't need any more of this. And let's move on to President-elect Biden. Let's swear him in. Let's hope that he understands where the center is because this country operates way better between center-right and center-left than any of the other stuff we're seeing. We don't – we see so many people who are preaching socialism for this country. It doesn't work. There's no place in the world that's ever worked, and why people think that it can work here is beyond me. I mean if they want to spend the next 10 days removing Trump from office, my god, we've got so many more important things to work through. We've got a pandemic. We've got all the other stuff that needs to be dealt with. We've got a pandemic that's now mutating into something that's more difficult to deal with. Let's deal with positive things and go forward. Trump's leaving office on the 20th. So be it. Let's move on.
EISEN: Well, I think the concern is he really has not strongly condemned what happened yesterday and it's not really clear that I guess he is committed to the peaceful transfer of power after yesterday, after last night, but still contesting this election and still the language that he continues to use I think people are afraid could continue to rally his supporters and the mobs like we saw yesterday.
PELTZ: Look, if that's what he's doing then he's a greater fool than even I would think he would be. I mean the election occurred. America has spoken. Okay, what else do we need? We had people killed yesterday in the most hallowed place in the world is our Congress, people killed there yesterday. And we're still contesting an election? Yeah, look, it was close. But that's what happens. Somebody comes in first and somebody comes in second. And where President Trump doesn't like to come in second, he did. He did and move on like a gentleman. And give Biden your best. And let's hope that he can bring some healing into our nation. But to sit there and contest this further I think is just more fuel on the fire, which is so unnecessary.
EISEN: A question about campaign financing. I mean, do you think you and others who have donated to his campaign bear any responsibility and will you rethink how you allocate money to politicians – Republicans say – who supported this effort going forward?
PELTZ: You know, first of all I want to tell you, I'm not a Republican. I'm not a Democrat, I'm an Independent. Registered as such, okay. And today, unfortunately, before yesterday, if you disagreed with a Democrat, you were an extreme conservative. The fact is, I voted for Al Gore. I voted for Clinton in his second term. Not in his first. So, I voted for Democrats before, and probably and hopefully will do it again if they represent what I believe they should represent. And do I think that we have a right – there are campaign contribution rules and if Congress wants to change them, then so be it. Let me tell you something. Save me a lot of money, a lot less mail, email and otherwise if they did it. And a lot of time. So go for it Congress. You’ve got my blessing.
EISEN: And a lot of spam calls. Finally Nelson, just want to ask you about the markets. Dow's up 230. Above 31,000. It surged yesterday, which was just an odd juxtaposition against some of these scenes. Continues to power higher. Does that make sense to you? Are you a buyer off of the new government, having Democrats control of all three houses?
PELTZ: The market shocked me yesterday. Really shocked me. I refused to look at any prices at all yesterday. I didn't look at the market until I got my report about five or six o'clock, to see how we had done. And I thought there was a typo. And yet it continues to do the same today, which says there's hope for America, I think, or rampant inflation coming I don't know which. You've got Democrats that have been elected and as a result, they're going to spend a lot of money, and in this time I think they should. And Trump spent a lot of money too, and we needed to spend the money then. And we need to spend more money now. I worry, really worry about America's balance sheet. The only thing that gives me some peace is that, probably the rest of the world's balance sheet, with rare exception, probably looks like ours. And maybe we have a complete worldwide restructuring. Some of the Chapter 11 lawyers who might be listening will have a ball with that one. But I do worry about that. But we're not alone in doing that. And I think we get a pass today for doing that. So I can understand the market. I am really surprised that it went the way it went and it says that America wants a change. They really do. I mean the last four years were very intense for America. And what I said, when you get on a plane, you root for the pilot. I was rooting for Trump in 2017. I'm rooting for Biden in 2021. That's the only way I think every American should approach this. Forget who you voted for. We're all Americans, okay. And we've got to root for the CEO. It's Joe Biden. Some Americans are not happy with it. Too bad. That's what we got and let's go with it. And let's give him our support and let Congress finally come together and do what's right for this country instead of what partisan politics tells them they should be doing. So, we can make yesterday, Sara, into a turning point. And I hope we can do that.
EISEN: Well, I thank you for coming on to talk honestly about your support and how you're feeling today. Nelson, always good to hear from you.
PELTZ: Thank you.