July 19, 2024

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump failed to impress everyone in a room full of top CEOs Thursday at the Business Roundtable’s quarterly meeting, multiple attendees told CNBC.

“Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said one CEO who was in the room, according to a person who heard the executive speaking. The CEO also said Trump did not explain how he planned to accomplish any of his policy proposals, that person said.

Several CEOs “said that [Trump] was remarkably meandering, could not keep a straight thought [and] was all over the map,” CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin reported Friday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Among the topics on which Trump offered scant details were how he would reduce taxes and cut back on business regulations, according to two other people in the room who spoke to CNBC.

Meeting attendees and people who spoke with them were granted anonymity in order to speak freely about the private event.

The same CEOs who were struck by Trump’s lack of focus “walked into the meeting being Trump supporter-ish or thinking that they might be leaning that direction,” Sorkin reported.

“These were people who I think might have been actually predisposed to [Trump but] actually walked out of the room less predisposed” to him, Sorkin said.

“President Trump was warmly received by everyone in the room and was commended for his policy proposals on deregulation and tax cuts,” said Steven Cheung, communications director for the Trump presidential campaign.

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Trump’s energy in the meeting was also noticeably subdued, according to two people who were in the room. At no time during his remarks was there any noticeable applause for Trump, two attendees told CNBC.

This was in contrast to Trump’s meeting earlier in the day with House Republicans on Capitol Hill. Attendees at that meeting told CNBC that the former president was animated and engaged and that Trump received several rounds of applause in separate meetings Thursday with both House and Senate Republicans.

Cheung said there was applause for Trump during the Q-and-A section of the meeting, “where participants commended President Trump for his deregulatory and tax cut agenda.”

Trump’s low-key energy at the Business Roundtable event could have been deliberate, one attendee told CNBC. Trump had wanted the CEO meeting to be “more like a business meeting than a speech,” the person said.

“At one point, he discussed his plan to bring the corporate tax rate down from 21% to 20% … and was asked about why he had chosen 20%,” Sorkin said Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “And he said, ‘Well, it’s a round number.'”

“That unto itself had a number of CEOs shaking their heads,” Sorkin reported.

In 2023, corporate income taxes contributed approximately $420 billion to federal revenues, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Wall Street has bristled over the past three years under President Joe Biden’s aggressive antitrust enforcement, pharmaceutical price caps and progressive tax policy.

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